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Mike Huckabee on how Mitt Romney can help the middle class

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 16, 2011 in New Orleans, La.

Kai Ryssdal: We had one-time Democratic strategist and present-day Democratic pundit James Carville on the broadcast last week, talking about what he thinks President Obama has to do to hang onto his job.

Today, the other side of the aisle. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee -- himself a GOP hopeful four years ago -- talking about what Mitt Romney ought to be doing. Governor, good to have you here.

Mike Huckabee: Thank you Kai, great to be here.

Ryssdal: What do you think of the idea that the middle class is key to who's going to win this race in November?

Huckabee: I think the middle class is key to who's going to win the race. They're the primary people in this country right now whose future is the most uncertain. People who are in the economic underclass have government to sort of keep them from falling completely beyond the floor. The people in the upper class probably have enough stashed away like squirrels with nuts in the winter, that no matter what the economic conditions, they're going to land on their feet. They may have to make some adjustments, but they're not going to go to the Goodwill and get their clothing. But the people in the middle class are really losing economic empowerment. They're the ones who are working harder than they were two and three and four years ago, but they're not seeing more for that.

Ryssdal: So here's the corollary: Are they getting the attention they are due from the president and from Gov. Romney?

Huckabee: They're getting a lot of political rhetoric, but they're not getting the policy changes that are necessary. And when the president goes out and demonizes business and makes it as if people who have been successful and who have invested and gotten a return, somehow ought to be punished for that -- it just shows a complete, absolute lack of understanding of what does create opportunity for the middle class.

Ryssdal: Come on, the president has no concept of how the economy works and how to resolve things for the middle class?

Huckabee: I don't think he does.

Ryssdal: Come on.

Huckabee: Absolutely not. I mean, nobody with IQ above broccoli is out there saying that they would do better if their taxes went up and if the regulations on them got stronger.

Ryssdal: Help me understand how a middle-class voter looks at Gov. Romney and says, 'This is going to help me.'

Huckabee: I think the key thing they have to realize is if they had $10,000 to invest, they would have to ask themselves, 'If I had $10,000 and entrusted it to either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama to take care of that and get something back above my $10,000, who would I entrust it to? The guy that invested in things like Solyndra and Fisker, that outsourced taxpayer jobs out of the country? Or Romney, who had some failures, but he had an 80 percent success rate in the investments at Bain?'

Ryssdal: If that's the case, sir, then why is it that the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll has Barack Obama up by 12 points on the question of who's going to do more to help the middle class: Gov. Romney or the president?

Huckabee: I think it's a perception issue. But perception isn't reality. You know, if a person goes out there and says long enough and loud enough and often enough that 'I really care about you,' maybe there's some people gullible enough to believe it.

Ryssdal: But they're both doing it, sir, come on.

Huckabee: Well of course they are. But one of them has had his hands on the wheel of the vehicle, and he has not made things better. One thing that I do believe Mitt Romney's got to do -- and this is an area that if I were sitting down with him, I would say: Tell your story, it's a good story, but make sure that the people you talk to understand that you are not oblivious to how hard they work and how little they're getting ahead because of it.

Ryssdal: Do you think he is doing it right now? Is it resonating do you think?

Huckabee: I think there's probably some room for message improvement, but overall, I think his message --

Ryssdal: Oh come on.

Huckabee: No, I'm just saying, I'm just telling you: I think there's always room for that, but do I think that his message is better than that of Barack Obama, who continues to blame everybody but himself? Every speech -- I've not heard Barack Obama give a speech that didn't start with 'I inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression.' That's where I find that this president seems out of touch.

Ryssdal: Last question before I let you go, sir. If he calls you up sometime in the next 10 days, two weeks, and says, 'Mike, I'd like you to run with me as my vice president,' what are you going to say?

Huckabee: Well, I'd picked myself up off the floor, since I haven't had any contact from them at all.

Ryssdal: None at all.

Huckabee: But it would clearly that they have not had any interest up until that last moment. It must be that everybody else on the list had turned them down that they had fully vetted. So it would be quite a surprise if I got the call.

Ryssdal: Gov. Mike Huckabee. He's got his own radio show if you want to hear more, it's called The Mike Huckabee Show. Governor, thanks a lot.

Huckabee: You bet Kai, good to talk to you.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Can someone please send Mr. Huckabee the memo he obviously missed. If the average middle class family had 10K to invest we wouldn't have the problems we are facing in this nation today. Too many families are hand to mouth and live from paycheck to paycheck.

My husband died in 2002 and his 401K was rolled into an money market IRA that hasn't been touched.
12/31/04 $83,715.94
12/31/08 $73,500.85
Currently $114,312.89
Not sure what it will be by the end of the year. But I think Obama's doing OK.

Kai Ryssdal is my new favorite interviewer. His "come on!" response to Mike Huckabee's conclusion that Barack Obama doesn't know how the economy works was a word- and intonation-perfect display of exasperation I have often felt when hearing someone make an absurd statement. Governor Huckabee, just because President Obama thinks there is a different approach to resolving our economic problems than the "tax-cuts for the rich and deregulate" plan the republicans keep putting forth doesn't mean they're ignorant and clueless. I mean... Come on!

I liked the comment that the Gov. Huckabee made regarding where would you invest 10,000.00, with Gov. Romney or President Obama. I recall that when Pres. Obama took office the markets were in free fall and the DOW was treading on 6000. My 401k was in the tank and I put all my cash in the market. Heck, Warren Buffet was buying, why shouldn't I. GE at 6.00 looked good.

The story speaks for itself. The DOW is back to 12,000 and GE is 18.00, I know where I'm putting my next bet.

I liked the comment that the Gov. Huckabee made regarding where would you invest 10,000.00, with Gov. Romney or President Obama. I recall that when Pres. Obama took office the markets were in free fall and the DOW was treading on 6000. My 401k was in the tank and I put all my cash in the market. Heck, Warren Buffet was buying, why shouldn't I. GE at 6.00 looked good.

The story speaks for itself. The DOW is back to 12,000 and GE is 18.00, I know where I'm putting my next bet.

If we tax gasoline we could pay for alternative energy, reduce personal income taxes, and lower consumption of fossil fuels - but what do I know? I'm dumber than a broccoli, according to Huckabee.

I've come to the conclusion that for many conservatives the definition of liberal bias is based on any statement that doesn't comport with mainline conservative ideology. The world consists of: A) Conservatives (read "good"), or B) Strident Liberal/Socialist/Communists bent on reshaping the U.S. into the next Cuba; there is no possibility of anything in between. How do you have a reasoned discussion when the starting point is such a simplistic, binary world view? And the idea that the US is becoming a "socialist country" is just an ill-defined talking point; presumably it is a reference to "state socialism" - last time I checked the Federal government doesn't own all means of production and I believe US private companies still get to generate and keep profits.

Huckabee's comment that Obama needs to "own" the current economy because they are his hands on the wheel misses the point that the problem isn't the direction of job growth (there's growth), it's that the Republican Congress controls the gas pedal. (Just the proposed infrastructure bank and maintaining normal government services for the population over the past 2 years would add over 3m jobs, putting unemployment below 7%)

I agree w/pat37027. Too many people have their hands out waiting for the Socialist machine that our country is becoming to take care of them from cradle to grave. Huckabee was making an allegory by the comment about $10,000. It was a hypothetical question designed to stimulate thought . The point is that with the federal government's current spending habits pretty soon a car load of paper clips will be worth more than a carload of dollars.

When heard the Governor Huckabee say that President Obama doesn't understand anything about the economy I laughed out loud so hard I had to pull my car off the road.

Huckabee and his Republican faithful remain devoid of new and innovative ideas to fix our economy. Their simplistic notions do not fit our current complex world economy. Their ideological policies fail to address the very thing economies need right now....greater confidence in government action and an effective guidance of our national economy.

Greater unity of action from both parties is what we need to spur on economic growth for all Americans. Putting America first over ideology is the key, because by simply cutting taxes and deregulating, government forfeits the ability to better shape the economy, because it is forced to rely a bunch of "what if's" and "maybe's". Maybe investors, with more money in their wallets, will invest here in the U.S. and not in China. Then again maybe not. Maybe they will buy more commercial goods. Ah, but maybe not. What guarantees are there? There are none. It’s all up to chance.

The invisible hand in our economic lives must include a vigorous role for government action to help markets and businesses. Targeted tax cuts and reasoned regulation is how government can spur on the economy. Hey, it comes to that in the end anyways when government has to bail out our “too big to fail” companies.

Ultimately, the solutions to our economic problems will come from pragmatic problem-solvers not from simplistic ideologues.

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