MS. ROBACH: Mike Huckabee's campaign may be watching their wallet, but the former governor of Arkansas says he's not abandoning Florida just yet. The former governor of Arkansas recognizes how crucial tonight's Republican debate in Florida is. A mistake by one of his rival's could change things around completely in his favor.
Joining us now by phone is Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Good morning, Governor - good afternoon.
MR. HUCKABEE: Hi, Amy. How are you?
MS. ROBACH: I'm doing well, but the big question is how are you doing? How do you feel going into tonight's debate? People often say that this is your strength. This is where you really come out and shine. What's going to be your strategy tonight?
MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I feel good about the debate. I think it's a great opportunity for me to showcase why the experience of having run a government longer than anybody running for president is exactly the right kind of preparation to be president, especially when things are going sour in the economy.
People may need to remember that it was on one of the MSNBC debates a few months ago, when all the Republican candidates for president were talking about how great the economy and I was the only who said there are signs out there that you guys aren't seeing. This economy is not doing that well everybody. And people laughed at me a few months ago and, in fact, I got just pilloried by many Republicans. A lot of the pundits and columnists were saying that. Turned out to be exactly on target and I think that maybe people will start understanding that the economy issues that we're facing right now aren't going to be solved by just a little twist of the screw driver and a tap of the hammer. We need some major change. I hope I get a chance to talk about getting rid of the IRS, making serious changes in the tax system so that we can really see a revival in the economy.
MS. ROBACH: Governor, are you expecting to have to defend yourself? Are you expecting to go on the attack? What are you anticipating in terms of just how heated the debate might get?
MR. HUCKABEE: It's hard to say. Certainly, I've been under attack in the last several debates, but the primary attacker, Fred Thompson, hasn't been there and he won't be there tonight and I just don't know how the others will respond, but I'm more than ready to defend a record that I have with my tenure as a governor. In fact, it's a record that I think is probably the strongest rationale for my being elected president, one that covers a whole gamut of things from not only cutting taxes and managing an economy and building jobs and seeing the lowest unemployment numbers in my state. But I think it's also a record of being authentic and consistent when it comes to things that matter to a lot of voters like the Second Amendment, human life, even things of defending traditional marriage.
MS. ROBACH: And Governor, we just were showing video of you earlier today, I believe, enjoying that sunny Florida weather, jogging a bit. But, in terms of the reception you're getting in Florida, we just had a new poll out - Mason-Dixon poll - with the top three candidates and you're not on there.
Now, I know there's another Miami Herald-St. Petersburg Times poll that has you tied for third with Giuliani, but how big of a concern is that when you look at these numbers going into Florida?
MR. HUCKABEE: It's not as big a concern for us because a lot of the support we have is absolutely grass roots and we're convinced that there's an extraordinary level of activity. I don't think any candidate has the level of fervent supporters that we have. They may not be the richest people in the country. They may not have the greatest influence in terms of necessarily being invited to all the swell parties, but there are some people out there that are absolutely making huge sacrifices. They show up on our mikehuckabee.com website every day, just fired up. And I think it's indicative of something, not just in Florida, but across the country.
MS. ROBACH: But do you have the money to compete in Florida?
MR. HUCKABEE: We do and, interestingly, the same misinformation that was put out - it must have been by some of the other candidates - that we were pulling out of Florida - and that's total nonsense. I've been in Florida every day this week. And where that comes from is beyond me.
You know, everybody has said, but Huckabee doesn't the same amount of money as some of these guys. So what? We're still on our feet and nobody thought we would win Iowa. Nobody thought we would do well in these other states and we have. We've got the second highest delegate count of anybody. And if the presidency is up on eBay for sale and that's how we're going to select the next president, then I may not be the guy. But if it's about brining the best ideas to this county and talking about how to make it stronger - not just can you wave a big check in front of people - that's why I think our campaign is going to end up on top.
MS. ROBACH: And as you point out, you are tied, or you are second in the delegate count; Mitt Romney just ahead of you and, obviously, that's what matters going into all of this. So when you think about Super Tuesday and you think about your plan. What is it? What is your strategy? So much to cover, so little time and so many people to try and connect with.
MR. HUCKABEE: Well, the good thing for us is, is we have strong support in a lot of the states that are going to be up on Super Tuesday and a lot of those states are in the South. The Republican who can't carry many of those states in the South, or at least do well in them, is probably not going to win, not only the nomination, but he can't win the presidency. So, on that day when you have Georgia and Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee all in play, those are going to be big states. And, in fact, for example Georgia has more delegates than Florida does.
So, people tend to forget that the nominee is not the nominee because the national media has anointed him. The Republicans pick the nominee and they do it by delegates.
MS. ROBACH: Governor, I know earlier today you were already talking about Mitt Romney in some negative terms. I think the Miami Herald reporter we just spoke to said, I don't think Mike Huckabee likes Mitt Romney very much. Should he watch his back tonight?
MR. HUCKABEE: (Laughs.) It's not a matter of not liking Mitt Romney, but I think, you know, Mitt's been proclaiming himself as the guy who, you know, understands about business. I think it's important for people to realize that some of us have dealt with the aftermath of some business decisions that left a lot of people without jobs. So, we'll talk about that tonight, I'm sure.
MS. ROBACH: I'm sure you will. Governor Mike Huckabee, thanks so much. We appreciate your time today.
MR. HUCKABEE: Great to talk to you, Amy. Thanks.