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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Ah, Mike Huckabee... noted light of the Republican Party. But surely, Mr. Huckabee, you realize that most of us in the Middle Class are a darn sight more intelligent than you give us credit for, and we can divine the tea leaves better than most, given we LIVE the economy that you and your brothers in punditry are constantly telling us is in ruins. Is it good? No. Certainly not if you've gone almost two years without a decent job. But is it dead? Hardly.

The fact is, Mr. Huckabee, that President Obama DID inherit an economy run off the rails by tax cuts, wars, and entitlements unsupported by revenue, brought to its knees by the rampant speculation and free-wheeling, spendthrift ways of banks so bent on accumulating profits that they would have given a bowl of petunias a no-doc home loan. And, rather than letting us fall into the precipice of a second, even more intractable depression, managed to keep the economy from imploding. He might have done a better job, if certain elements in Congress had not felt the need to water down the stimulus spending that was needed to kick-start the flagging economy at that point.

If the economy is still weak, it is not for lack of trying, but Mr. Huckabee, your "friends" in Congress have not exactly been on board in trying to help President Obama out. Even where the President has made concessions, the intolerable stubbornness of Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, and company has led to more activity in trying to regulate women's private parts than actual effort to pass jobs legislation. So you might want to saddle him with the all the blame, but President Obama had help in getting there. I believe it was Mitch McConnell who so eloquently outlined the Republican strategy: help him fail. Of course, this little coup would have to be pulled off by continuing to wring the remaining life from the Middle Class, strangling the economy in the process.

Mr. Huckabee, you may be assured that no one in their right mind intends to hand Mitt Romney the keys to the White House, let alone even let him on the grounds for the tour. It has been people like him and his cohorts on Wall Street that have been spending the last two decades dismantling the American economy and sending it piecemeal overseas, padding their offshore tax-free accounts in the process. There aren't enough people in this country NOT of their right mind, to elect that man to the Presidency.

Earth to Mr. Huckabee -- Mr. Obama DID inherit the worst economy since the Great Depression, and it has NOT gotten worse, it HAS improved. Thank you. Oh, and how would the middle class be hurt if anyone earning, by income, not dividends, over $250,000 per year has an income tax increase on the amount OVER $250,000?? Even the lucky police officer/teacher working two income couple probably doesn't earn over $250,000 per year. By lucky I mean both or either still have their jobs and income. Oh, and without that middle class no one would find anything at Goodwill. One more comment -- how are the lower incomes being taken care of? Arkansas barely provides Medicaid, and governors like the one here in AZ wants to forgo Medicaid extras and continue to absorb the poor's use of health care.

I am now reminded why I rarely listen to NPR anymore.

Kai Rysdall did not challenge Mike Huckabee on the facts. I am dismayed. Surely he knows all the Republican talking points and could have countered them with the facts. But no.

I have access to BBC, MSNBC, and WCPT (Chicago), as well as a host of Tumblr news bloggers, if I want to get news I can rely on.

Our usual NPR membership will be spent on more effective reporting this year.

Your membership would be with your LOCAL PUBLIC RADIO STATION, not "NPR." Besides, Marketplace has nothing to do with NPR - the show comes from American Public Media, not National Public radio.
NPR produces shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. If you don't support your local station, you aren't supporting those shows either.

Kai, thank you for this interview. It would have been nice if you had held his feet to the fire over his 'broccoli' comment. But you were tougher than CNN would have been.

Clearly, the example of investing $10,000 shows that Gov. Huckabee is out of touch with the middle class, as already stated. But, what exactly was his point? I really would like to understand -- is it that Pres. Obama can't manage money? I just don't see how an investment example does anything to advocate for Gov. Romney as a worthy candidate for president. Is this just Republican groupspeak, or is there a point that is worth making? I can think of many things to criticize about the President, but serving as investment advisor is just not relevant. Disappointed that Gov. H. couldn't do better.

I wish that you had asked if Romney can succeed if all he does is attack Obama's failures without offering any real solutions of his own. He has offered fifty-nine excuses for why he would do nothing and the only jobs program he has offered is in his Citadel speech where he promised to borrow a great deal of money to expand the army to invade more countries.

When Huckabee said "'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 premiss of this statement does not apply to most of us middle class voters, who has an extra $10,000 to invest in anything? Another politician out of touch with the middle class.

"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."

Thank you, Mr. Huckabee, for totally insulting a whole bunch of people who believe this is exactly what is necessary: More government income, and less opportunity to abuse the system for gross personal gain.

Kai, you ARE my hero! Keep going toe to toe with these guys! The Huckabees of the political world just keep inventing stories to cover up the truth - I guess they don't realize that some people actually read the paper and listen to public radio! It's the truth that shall set us free and, Kai, more than I, you are in a position to uphold that truth! Keep it up!


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