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News Conference by Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R), Republican Presidential Candidate Following Wisconsin Primary


Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

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MR. HUCKABEE: I just talked to Senator McCain a few minutes ago. I congratulated him. I also am very grateful for the kind comments that he made in his remarks in Columbus, Ohio. He's always the statesman, gracious in his victories, and certainly continues to show an extraordinary amount of the kind of, to me, graciousness that has caused us to have, I think, an extraordinarily civil campaign throughout the entire process.

As I've said many times, I think it is noteworthy that the two most civil campaigns in the Republican primary are the ones that are still marching forward. And Senator McCain has exhibited the kind of class that I think is good for our party and, frankly, for our country and the political process.

Clearly we were disappointed with the results in Wisconsin. You always look for some hint of good news in the midst of the bad. And frankly, even in what was, you know, a less than kind of performance than we had wanted out of Wisconsin, there was good news in the middle of it.

Some of you were with me the other day when I went out on a limb and pledged that if we won Wisconsin that I would put the cheesehead on and be photographed in a cheesehead. So there I was with that bold prediction and comment that I would do that. So the bad news is we didn't win Wisconsin, but the good news is I don't have to have a photograph with the cheesehead tonight.

I do want to say thanks to the people of Wisconsin. They have been magnificent to us, many of them -- (brief audio break) -- extraordinarily inclement weather to come to events over the past week. And I always marveled not only that they came, but they came with an extraordinary level of enthusiasm. And their warmth overcame all of the incredible winter storms that we were facing every single place we went.

I want to say a special thanks to Tim Michaels, our chairman in Wisconsin, who worked his heart out for us. He and his wife Barbara have been magnificent. And certainly there's nothing that they could have done any differently to have been more tenacious in trying to get our voters out there.

One of the things that I get asked every day, and I'm sure you'll probably ask it in the course, is, "Why do you keep going?" And I know that that's a question that people have tried to come up with their own answers. And some have even suggested that the reason I keep going is maybe just there's some ego trip.

Let me assure you that if it were ego, my ego doesn't enjoy getting these kind of evenings where we don't win the primary elections. So it's got to be something other than that, and it is. It's about convictions. It's about principles that I dearly, dearly believe in.

It's about believing that the message of pro-life, standing firm and unflinchingly for a human life amendment, is an important discussion that we must have in the Republican Party, and frankly must have in our nation. It's a battle I've fought since before I ever got into politics, and it's one that I'll continue to fight, because I think it gets to the heart and soul of our nation and who we are as a civilization and how we treat each other.

I also believe very strongly that our economy is not going to ultimately do better and give the next generation a chance to succeed if we don't make not minor changes, but a total overhaul of our tax system. My advocacy for the FAIR tax, to completely replace the current tax system, which penalizes productivity, is an important issue for me.

It's not something that I just decided would be a nice little election-year position to take. It's something I passionately believe could transform the American economy, bring jobs back to this nation, re-energize our own future, and give people my children's age and those coming after them an opportunity to look forward to an economic system in which they could thrive rather than barely survive.

When I go and speak at campuses and I look out there at those students and I think about the fact that they're about to get out of college with huge debts, and many of them will barely be able to get a job that will service the interest on the debt, and then on top of their personal debt that they have for their education, many of them are going to be faced with dealing with a $9 trillion federal debt that Washington has placed on them, all the more reason that I think somebody in this campaign who hasn't been a part of Washington needs to stay in the race to talk about the value of balancing budgets, controlling spending, and keeping taxes low.

There are many people in our party who have yet to vote. And whether it's the voters of Rhode Island or Vermont or Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Nebraska, there are millions of Republicans across this country who have yet to be heard from. Ending this race prematurely means they don't get a voice and they don't have a choice.

I know that there are those who would like to say, "Let's just get this over with." But, folks, elections can be a messy thing. But that's part of the process. I didn't make the rules, but I plan to play by them. And the rules are that somebody has to have 1,191 delegates in order to be the de facto nominee. That has not yet happened.

Until it does, we're going to keep marching on, not just because of nothing else to do, but primarily because there is a message that still needs to be heard in this country. There are people who have a right to vote. There are states who have patiently waited while other states have gone in front of them. And they should have as much of a voice in the process of selecting the nominee as have the states that went early.

So for all those reasons, we continue on. We go to Texas tomorrow. And we'll spend a lot of our time in Texas, but we'll also be in Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island -- (brief audio break) -- working hard to try to get to as many voters in some of those key states as we possibly can between now and the March 4th Texas primary.

So again I want to say to all those people who have voted for me and have stood faithfully with us, the hundreds of thousands of people who have regularly gone to our website, people who continue to contribute very generously, keeping us going, you know, my heartfelt thanks to every one of them. And I'm going to ask them to hang with us, because to Texas we go.

And Texas is a state where independence matters a lot. People there don't like to be told what to do, how to think or how to vote. I think we'll find a very welcome atmosphere there. And we're going to Texas not just to bide our time. We're going to Texas to win Texas. And that's what we're going to try to do (over the ?) the next couple of weeks.

I'll be happy to take a few questions from you, so -- yes.

Q Governor, you talked about your staying in the race because of your (positions ?), your values. Do you think Senator McCain doesn't share your convictions -- (inaudible)?

MR. HUCKABEE: He has maybe many of them, but he does not support, for example, the human life amendment. He does support human embryonic stem cell research. And I know that our positions on immigration are significantly different and that I believe we need to build a border fence first and foremost and do it by a time certain.

That doesn't mean that his positions are bad. It means they're different. And elections are about choices. If we had the absolute mirror-image positions on everything, there wouldn't be a whole lot of point in me continuing this discussion.

But he doesn't support the FAIR tax. I think we need something dramatic to change our tax system. Small businesses are hurting out there, and they're not going to get better if all we do is tinker with the current tax code, because the real problem is systemic. It's not just some minor adjustment that needs to be made. There's something terribly wrong with a system that essentially penalizes people for working harder and being more productive.

The bottom line is that if you penalize something, you get less of it. If you reward something, you get more of it. So when you penalize hard work and productivity, you tend to get less of it. When you reward hard work and productivity, you get more of it.

I don't think anybody would argue that more work, more productivity, more entrepreneurial activity, is good for the economy. It's what makes a strong economy. So when we're penalizing it, we are on the front end making it so that it's more difficult to build the kind of economy that keeps jobs here.

And with 2 million homeowners facing foreclosure, people wondering how they're going to make it from their next paycheck to the one following that because of fuel prices that now, thanks to oil going over $100 a barrel -- fuel prices are predicted to go to $3.40 by this spring. Now, that's going to hurt a lot of people just getting to and from work. It's going to raise the price of everything on the shelf. It's going to mean that the people who barely can make it now and are just struggling to pay their rent in some cases aren't going to be able to do it. And that ought to be a real concern.

And I'm just not hearing enough people talk about how do we fix that. I hear people with band-aids. But folks, we need a transfusion. We need something dramatically different. And I believe the FAIR tax would give us an opportunity to really transform our economy by changing the very foundation on which it functions.

Q Governor, while it's still early in the raw vote count, right now there's a 20 percent differential -- (inaudible). First, is that surprising to you? And second, going forward, would such numbers maybe change your mind about staying in until 1,191?

MR. HUCKABEE: No, the numbers aren't going to change my mind in terms of the margin, because it's 1,191 that's the magic number. And, sure, I thought we'd run a lot closer than that. I mean, one thing that we're having to confront is that every single day, every hour, every few minutes of every hour, news reports keep, in essence, saying it's over and there's no mathematical way. And, you know, so we're really going against an incredible head wind every single day.

And what I have to do is to remind individual voters that their voice and their vote still count and that nobody can take that away from them unless they just simply give it away. So that's why we need to continue on, and especially through Texas. Polls there are showing us very close and almost in a statistical dead heat. So we're certainly more optimistic about Texas.

Q Governor, speaking about Texas --

MR. HUCKABEE: Okay. Deep in the heart of Texas, huh?

Q -- (inaudible).


Q Some are saying that's -- (inaudible).

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, we'll see. There is a lot of symbolism. The Alamo is an amazing place, and I've been there on many occasions. I never go to San Antonio when I don't try to go there, and I always read the speech by William Barrett Travis, who perhaps made one of the most courageous stands of any American I can think of.

And people sometimes think of the Alamo as a defeat, but it actually was the springboard to Texas' victory and independence. Had it not been for the Alamo, there would not have been a Republic of Texas. So there's a lot of history there, a lot of history of courage, of valor, and also of people who stood by their convictions no matter what.

And even when Travis and the people of the Alamo knew what might be an inevitable fate, they did not flinch and they did not waver in their commitment, because they knew that what they were doing was not about them. They knew that it was about something much larger than themselves. And that's why I think that when we go to Texas, we go with a real sense of resolve and purpose and direction and, you know, a commitment to see it through.

Q (Inaudible) -- the slogan was "Remember the Alamo."


Q Do you think you're going to say, "Remember Huckabee" -- (inaudible)?

MR. HUCKABEE: I don't know. We'll see how that works out. This time, you know, the Alamo story may turn out differently, so we're going to hope for the hopes.

Q In terms of hope, Senator McCain said tonight -- (inaudible) -- he is going to be the Republican Party's nominee. At this point -- (inaudible)?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I mean, the best to hope for at this point would be that everything turns differently starting tomorrow. The second-best thing would be that nobody gets 1,191 and we go to the convention, we have a brokered convention, and I get the nomination by the delegates who attend. So those are two scenarios.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, I think the second option is certainly more hopeful than would be the first one, given, you know, the trend. But, you know, you're never wrong when you stand for what you believe in.

If I quit standing for the human life amendment, then everything that I've done, not just during my time as a person running for office over the past 17 or 18 years, but everything I've stood for for the past 35 years as an adult, suddenly becomes a lot less meaningful, because these are not positions that I hold because I think they're going to be politically expedient. I'm going to hold them whether I win or lose. I held them and got into politics because of views that I felt like were very important to help frame the issues for the future of our nation.

There were a lot of people who fought slavery 150, 160 years ago, and sometimes in the early days they were on the losing end of the battles and they were not successful in getting it overturned. But their voices didn't get silenced because they didn't always win the early battles. And eventually there was an awakening in this country, an awakening of conscience, that something, in fact, was wrong with one person owning another human being. And now all of us agree how repulsive that is.

You know, whether I live to see it or not, I long for the day when one day in this country we find it repulsive that we would destroy an innocent human life for the convenience of another, and that instead we would elevate every human life as having intrinsic worth and value, and we would celebrate each life and give it a place of honor and respect and dignity. I think to do anything less than that is to, in many ways, deny the very heart, the very soul of our nation.

Q (Off mike.)


Q (Off mike.)


Q (Off mike.)

MR. HUCKABEE: (Laughs.) You know, the thing that is completely amazing about that whole flap is that his music is in the public marketplace. It also means that it's licensed. And so the venue where we played those songs twice have an ASCAP music license that covers the playing of those songs. They in turn pay royalties. And probably Mr. Scholz will end up getting, I'd say, six to 12 cents for the playing of those songs; probably six cents for each time the song was played. And it'll actually come from the venue.

Now, if he doesn't want people to play his music, he needs to take it off the market. But as long as it's on the market, it's an absurdity to think that somehow playing a song is tantamount to an endorsement. I think, if anything, we probably sold maybe thousands of copies of Boston music as a result of our reminding people of the songs. But we won't expect a check from him or anything like that. We'll let him off the hook this time. We'll let him go.

Thank you, guys; appreciate it.

Q (Off mike.)


Q (Off mike) -- opposition to abortion.


Q Senator McCain opposes it.

MR. HUCKABEE: He does.

Q And so do you not feel that that message is getting out?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, it's not an issue, though, that he takes the position that has been a part of the Republican platform since 1980. The human life amendment has been part of our party's platform. I want to make sure it's still in that platform, because I believe it's one of the reasons that we've attracted a lot of conservatives to our party. And if we lose those conservatives to our party, if we pull away from that conviction that has been a very important part of who we are as a party, I think it's going to be very detrimental to being able to keep people in the Republican fold.

Thank you very much.

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