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NBC "Today" Interview - Transcript


Location: Little Rock, AR

NBC "Today" Interview

MR. LAUER: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is in Little Rock this morning, fresh off his big wins in the South.

Governor, good morning to you.

MR. HUCKABEE: Good morning, Matt.

MR. LAUER: I watched your speech last night, and you made reference to the people who had been calling this a two-person race. So let me start by apologizing --

MR. HUCKABEE: (Laughs.)

MR. LAUER: -- because I think I may have been one of those people. Welcome back.

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, thank you very much. I didn't think I'd ever disappeared, but now I think everybody's getting the point that there is a person from Arkansas in this race, and we just were very excited. Last night was a big win for us. And it wasn't just that we stayed on our feet but where we won. I think the analysts are going to start saying that's where you have to win in order to win the election in November.

MR. LAUER: Well, let me talk about what the analysts are saying right now. They're saying your campaign was on fumes going into Super Tuesday. You did win five states, a nice share of delegates, but your wins came in the South, one specific region. And people are wondering -- except for Iowa, where you did well earlier -- do you have strength anywhere else in the country?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, you know, we do. And that's the point we want to make is that the South is the base of the Republican Party. There are a lot of people across America who've been told that I'm not really a contender. I've been put off to the corner of the stage; it's really a two-man race between McCain and Romney.

What we're seeing now, lit up last night. It has been for the last several days. Contributions are coming in. Our people are revived. They're ready to go. So it's a completely different day for us. And all we needed was just, frankly, the time and the money to show that we were competitive.

MR. LAUER: You talk about your coffers are getting full again. But let me look at some scheduling down the road. Tell me -- and jump right in here -- where do you see you can win? Washington State, Louisiana, Kansas, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Texas. Do you see a win in those states for you?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, we certainly see Texas in play. We're going to be in Kansas this week, and we think we can be in play there. I think we can win in Virginia. We don't have a whole lot of time. Louisiana's got kind of a strange system, and it may not be very easy to win because of the way they select their delegates, and we're trying to work our way through that.

But the truth is, anybody is competitive anywhere. What we had to overcome was every day being hammered by radio talk show hosts who said that I wasn't really in this race, people saying that it didn't really matter; a vote for me was a vote for McCain, those kind of things.

Now people realize, no, a vote for me is a vote for me. It's a vote for a guy that wants to get rid of the IRS and a vote for a guy that has bonafide conservative credentials, which the Republicans have been looking for.

MR. LAUER: Well, you're putting a different spin on it right now this morning than some of the pundits, the people you're talking about, put on it last night. I want to take this next step carefully. There were a lot of people midway through the coverage last night who started to beat the drum and say, "Here's what happened tonight. Mike Huckabee won some states. He got some delegates. What he really got was leverage. He can now go to John McCain, or John McCain can now go to Mike Huckabee, and there can be a deal made."

You can actually help silence talk radio and you can help with those conservative credentials that he's been under attack for and that you would be a good running mate, vice presidential running mate, for John McCain. Your reaction?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I've worked 13 months and I've had the support of a whole lot of just ordinary people around this country who've helped me get here. They didn't help me get here just to walk off the field and say, "I really worked this hard to be in second place." You know, Matt, we're still in this until somebody gets 1,191 delegates, the magic number to become the nominee. And until that happens, just ask the New York Giants what can happen near the end of the game.

MR. LAUER: Yeah, but you did not close the door on me there, Governor. Would you say this morning that you would consider at some point -- if you don't think you can reach that magic number of delegates, would you consider the vice presidential slot on a ticket with John McCain?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, let's go ahead and be honest now. Nobody ever wants the vice president's job. Nobody ever turns it down. But here's the more important thing. That's not my decision to make. The real question I think we ought to be asking -- would I pick John McCain to be my running mate as my vice president? And that's going to be a question, you know, that I'll have to deal with, just like he will. But more importantly, we're going to be opponents over the next several weeks, and we're not going to be talking about a marriage. We're going to be talking about both trying to go after the same bride.

MR. LAUER: So if the phone rings and it's John McCain on the other end, this week you are not interested in that conversation.

MR. HUCKABEE: You know, we had a great conversation last night. The senator and I, I think, have a most unusual relationship in politics. We genuinely have great respect for each other and I think like each other. We're going to have a civil campaign, something America probably would love to see and hasn't in a long time. But we do have differences. We note those differences. We both have some strengths we're going to bring to the people and let them decide. But it's not going to be take a ball peen hammer, bust the kneecaps of the other guy kind of race.

MR. LAUER: I don't know whether it's sounding more like Woodstock all of a sudden or "Casablanca," where I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendships.

MR. HUCKABEE: (Laughs.)

MR. LAUER: But Governor Huckabee, congratulations on a good day.

MR. HUCKABEE: Thank you very much, Matt.

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