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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript


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MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face the Nation," Mike Huckabee crushed John McCain in Kansas, beat him in Louisiana. Will he stay in the race now? We'll ask him this morning. Because despite those wins, it's still all but impossible for him to get the delegates he needs to get the nomination. What does he want? And what is his strategy from here on? Those are the questions for Huckabee.

Then we'll bring in White House political strategist Karl Rove to assess the Republican race. Barack Obama swept all three Democratic caucuses yesterday. We'll ask Democratic strategist Joe Trippi to assess that and the Democratic race.

Finally, I'll have a word on what we're learning from campaign '08. But first, Governor Huckabee on "Face the Nation."


MR. SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. Well, it's been quite a weekend for Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. On the Democratic side, Obama won everything he could win yesterday. He won the primary in Louisiana. He swept the caucuses in Nebraska and in Washington state.

And the big news for Huckabee, he took Kansas in a landslide. He squeaked by in Louisiana. The race in Washington state is still too close to call. Governor Huckabee is in the studio with us this morning.

Good morning, Governor. Thank you for coming.

MR. HUCKABEE: Good morning.

MR. SCHIEFFER: A very big day for you yesterday. You literally crushed John McCain in Kansas. You also won in Louisiana. Yet, it still seems mathematically, it not mathematically then virtually impossible for you to get the delegates you need to catch Senator McCain. So are you planning to stay in the race now?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I am, Bob. And when I hear people say it's practically impossible, nothing is impossible. This country was built on the impossible. And it's impossible that I'm still in the race. That's what most people would have said a few months ago. In politics, so many things can happen that can change the landscape overnight. A candidate can say something, do something, something can happen, and everything can change.

People say the path to victory is very complicated. And boy, they're right! The path to defeat is really simple. All I've got to do is walk off the field.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But the math would suggest that the delegates are just not there.

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, it could happen that over the course of the next few months, not only winning primaries, but there's no guarantee that a lot of the people who have voted are that absolutely sold on what they've done. I think that's what we are seeing in the Republican Party. So what happens if we get to the convention and nobody has yet really captured the nomination? That's possible. Then all bets are off, and it could end up that we would go to the convention and pick a nominee.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So you're prepared to stay to the convention if that becomes necessary.

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I'm prepared to stay in until somebody has 1,191 delegates, because that's the magic number at which a person is the nominee of the party. Until then or until -- I'll tell you what the other thing would be. If my supporters came to me and said, you know, that's enough -- now, that hasn't happened. In fact, they're fired up. We've got more people going to our website contributing, getting online, getting fired up, getting call lists to call people, voters in states than we've ever had. So you know, when other people are winding down, we're winding up.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, what exactly do you plan to do? Governor Romney got out of the race, because he said, frankly, he wanted the party to unify, because he feared if the Democrats would win, he virtually said that would mean we'd surrender to al Qaeda, and we would lose the war on terrorism. How do you plan to do this?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I think first of all, with all due respect to Governor Romney, I don't think that he had the same perspective as I do. I don't think our party is damaged by having an election. I thought that was the point of politics. You have a process, you give people choices. People in many, many states, including large states like Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and all across this country, Nebraska, North Carolina, they've not even voted. So are we to tell them forget your vote, we don't even care what you think, we're not even going to let you participate in what's supposed to be a Democratic process? I think we ought to say, no, an election is just that. It gives people an opportunity to express themselves. If we go all the way to the convention, then so be it. And the thought that we can't contrast ourselves with the Democrats is nonsense.

Here's the other thing to keep in mind. John McCain and I are the two most civil campaigns out there. I think that says something about at least the spirit of the Republican Party that we have right now. The Democrats are eating each other up. So it's not hurting us that we still have a contest going on.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk about that a little bit, because you do. You have said very few things that are even critical of Senator McCain. Are you really running for vice president?

MR. HUCKABEE: No, I don't think Senator McCain would select me anyway. I'm not sure I would select him. I think that it's a little almost off the chart to think that he would end up selecting me. So there's no illusion on my part that if I hang in here and keep running against him, he's liable to say, oh, thanks for hanging in there and running against me so long, I think I'll pick you as a running mate. I'm not interested in being a running mate. If I wanted to run for vice president, I would have signed up with one of the guys I thought was going to win and try to ingratiate myself if that's what I wanted.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Are you taking yourself out of the race? Are you saying if he asked you to be vice president, you'd say no?

MR. HUCKABEE: Let me say it this way. There are no discussions for such a thing, because at this point I'm still running for president. There's no other reason for me to think otherwise.

And there's so many speculations about why am I doing this. I'm doing it because a year and a month ago when I launched this campaign, I believed this country needed a different kind of leadership, that it needed leadership that had the practical experience of actually running and managing, leading as a chief executive of a government, which I had done for 10 and a half years, longer than anyone in the race, Democrat or Republican, not just in the race left but in the race period.

I understand the nature of many of the problems we face and have actually led in those issues -- health care, education, job creation, tax reform, things that can transform the future of our economy -- giving the next generation a chance to have the kind of America that I've grown up with an taken for granted. I don't see that coming out of Washington, Bob. I just don't.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, why do you think that you rather than Senator McCain is more qualified? Or what is it that you can say to Republicans that you say, look, I'm just better at this, that or something else? What is it that sets you apart?

MR. HUCKABEE: I've actually run a government. I've done that. I think senators have the luxury of taking several issues, maybe two or three, and they can specialize in them and become very good at them. But in terms of seeing the whole playing field, they've never managed the whole field. When you're a governor, you run a microcosm of the federal government. Every agency that exists at the federal level you have at the state level. And what you're actually dealing with is the cornucopia of all of those things at one time. And you have to understand that issues are not isolated. This is the number- one issue of leadership I think we are missing from Washington. They see issues as individual silos isolated from each other.

From a governor's perspective, an executive perspective, I see them all integrated -- education, health care, transportation and infrastructure, our military, national defense, border security. These aren't isolated issues. They all tie together for the strength of America, for the strength of the future.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this. Clearly, there's a part of the Republican Party that is not ready yet, it seems, to come behind Senator McCain. Will you try to exploit that?

MR. HUCKABEE: I don't think I have to exploit.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Are you their candidate?

MR. HUCKABEE: I think I'm the candidate for a lot of people who believe that, as they look at the field, you've got essentially everybody with a Washington address except me. And people are so frustrated with what has not happened in this town to control spending, to stop corruption, to bring leadership to real tax reform. There are a lot of people who support me, because I want to see us completely overhaul our tax structure. I think it's stifling our economy. It's costing us jobs. It's choking the life out of small business. It's an environment in which it's very difficult for American small business owners to stay competitive. Those are reasons that I think it's important to stay in, because nobody else is talking about the very issues that I'm putting front and center on the table.

MR. SCHIEFFER: If in fact Senator McCain does get the nomination, will you then support him?

MR. HUCKABEE: Oh, well, sure. I'm going to support the Republican nominee. I can't -- even before this, I would have supported the Republican nominee for the simple reason it's not just a party thing, it's a principle thing. Any one of our guys, I would say, more represent what I think is right about America than any of their guys. And I like some of their guys, it's just that --

MR. SCHIEFFER: What do you make of the fact that so many more Democrats have been voting in these primaries and caucuses than Republicans? It's 14 million to about 8 million. Doesn't that put Republicans behind to start with?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, right now I think what you're seeing is the energy of the Democrat Party, because they're seeing that, you know, we've had a Republican president for eight years so, historically, the likelihood is to swing. But I think when America starts having only one Democrat and one Republican in the race and they start thinking about who's going to best protect this country, who's going to play offense against al Qaeda rather than defense and wait until something happens, who's likely to least touch your wallet when it comes to taxes, who's most likely to really bring real reform to issues like the Washington tax environment, our regulatory authority, who's really going to bring the kind of leadership that will transform America, I think that's when the contrast gets clear. I don't, by any stretch of the imagination, say that the Republicans have no chance of winning. I think quite the opposite.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Governor, thank you very much. We wish you the best.

MR. HUCKABEE: Thank you, Bob.

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