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MSNBC "Decision '08" Interview - Transcript


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MSNBC "Decision '08" Interview

MR. MATTHEWS: Let's bring in one of the winners tonight of many states, Governor Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas.

Boy, I'm counting your states, Governor. Nobody thought you were -- everybody thought you were going to be the blocking back for McCain tonight. You end up being the quarterback. Look at this. West Virginia, you won the caucuses earlier today; Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas. Did I miss one, Governor?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I think we're looking at Tennessee. Some have called it for us.

MR. MATTHEWS: I think we're a little slow on that one.

MR. HUCKABEE: And we're leading in Missouri, last I checked. So -- okay. Well, jump in there and go ahead and call it for me, Chris, so we'll have something really exciting to talk about.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Laughs.)

MR. HUCKABEE: Come on.

MR. MATTHEWS: I don't have the authority, but I would love to do it.

Let me ask you about your role in this campaign now. You are winning the South. You've won clearly. You won in Iowa, of course. That really started the whole ball game going for you. John McCain seems to win very effectively in states that Democrats usually win in the general election.

What does that tell you about his situation? I mean, I was kidding tonight; he's sort of the Metroliner candidate -- New York, Connecticut, up and down the coast, except for Massachusetts, where Governor Romney won. What good does that do you to have a front- runner who only wins in states you probably can't win in the general?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, it's critical to win the South, as you know, Chris, as a Republican candidate. If you don't win it, you don't become the president. And I've been saying all along that the reason that my campaign had viability and credibility was that we were able to capture votes that Republicans have to capture.

But the other side of that is, I've been capturing votes my entire political life that Republicans don't typically capture; 48 percent of the African-American vote in my state. I'm the only Republican in 119 years that had the endorsement of the Machinist and Aerospace Workers Union and the International Painters Union, which I have in this presidential contest.

My support is as wide as home schoolers and the NEA of New Hampshire. So you have to have that kind of coalition of broad-based support in order to be president.

MR. MATTHEWS: What do you make of Governor Barbour's comment -- I don't know if you heard it here on our MSNBC broadcast just a couple of minutes ago -- where he said it's basically time for the candidates who are not leading this race to begin to recognize that one candidate is? That's John McCain. I don't want to paraphrase him too strongly or too courageously, but he seemed to be making the point it's time to declare victory -- a victor.

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, you know, if John McCain gets 1,191 votes, then he's the victor. If I do, then I am. And until he does, nobody has won this thing yet. I think it's a little amazing to me that some of us -- take myself -- worked awfully hard, had support from people all over this country who have made incredible sacrifices for me to be here tonight, and for me to just look at them and say, "Okay, you know what? Somebody suggested that I ought to leave and just make it easy for another candidate." I don't think so, Chris; ain't going to happen.

MR. MATTHEWS: Are you going all the way to St. Paul?

MR. HUCKABEE: I'm going all the way to St. Paul unless somebody gets all those delegates that makes the trip meaningless to me. Then I'll save the money. But right now it looks like we may end up in St. Paul before we have the nominee. Now, if the others would like to drop out and go ahead and turn it over to me, I'll be happy to accept it. But as we say in the South, it's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in this dog. And just know that there's a whole lot of fight in this dog.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Romney's been making cracks about you being somewhat the Sancho Panza of this affair; you know the reference to the loyal deputy.

MR. HUCKABEE: (Laughs.)

MR. MATTHEWS: But let me ask you about what happened. Did you have any hand in a deal in West Virginia? Was there any deal to throw it to you by the McCain people that you know anything about?

MR. HUCKABEE: No, I wish I was so smart. We had heard that the Ron Paul people had decided that if their guy couldn't get it that they would throw their support to me. You know, I think it's probably pretty logical, if the McCain people didn't get their guy in, that they would support me over Mitt Romney. But as far as did I have any contact with the campaign? No. Did I sit down with anybody and work something out? No. But I sure am grateful that we won West Virginia.

And, you know, here's the thing. Today Mitt Romney was whining. Yesterday he said we shouldn't be whining. Once again, he's changed from the no-whine position to the whine position. He's taken both sides of whining. And I think at least I can congratulate him on being consistent and taking both sides of everything I know.

MR. MATTHEWS: So he should serve no "whine" before its time.

MR. HUCKABEE: I wanted to use that line so badly, and my staff said, "Don't; nobody will get it." And you took it from me. But I'm glad you did. I'm going to tell them I should have used it after all.

MR. MATTHEWS: I think we both stole it from Orson Welles. But anyway, here's Keith.

MR. HUCKABEE: We both stole it, yeah.

MR. OLBERMANN: It can be usable somewhere down the line. We all know that in our respective businesses.

Last question, sir, again, with these quotes coming from the Romney campaign. I just wanted to get your reaction while we had you. Are you, in fact, in cahoots with or the sidekick of John McCain?

MR. HUCKABEE: No, I'm running against John McCain. He's running against me. You know what I think is hard for the Romney people to understand? John McCain and I actually believe that politics can be conducted in a civil, gentlemanly way. And I know that may be just a shock to the Romney campaign, but both of us approached this that we're running for president. We're not running to see if we can take a ball peen hammer to each other's kneecaps and see if we can disable the other. And that's why I think the Romney campaign keeps thinking there's some kind of unholy alliance.

Look, we're opponents, but we also believe that this country is more important than either one of us individually. So we want to keep it clean and honorable so, when it's over, we'll be able to unite this party and win so that we can have a Republican president that will keep taxes lower, keep families in the forefront, and keep the Republican values out there for America.

MR. MATTHEWS: I guess we can take that from you as another vote for Mitt Romney for Miss Congeniality in this whole debate. Anyway, thank you very much.

MR. HUCKABEE: (Laughs.)

MR. MATTHEWS: It's getting so interesting here. Governor Huckabee, congratulations on your victories tonight. You surprised a lot of pundits like myself; a lot of victories tonight in your column.

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