Transcript: Mike Huckabee on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial trancript of the Aug. 26, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY' HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee fresh off his surprising second-place finish at the recent Iowa straw poll.

Governor Huckabee, congratulations and welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, thank you, Chris. Pleasure to be back.

WALLACE: Since the Ames poll two weeks ago, how much of a boost to your campaign? How much money have you raised since then and in what other tangible ways have you gotten some kind of an Iowa bounce?

HUCKABEE: Well, people that wouldn't return our calls are now calling us. That's a good thing. Three point two million hits to the website. We've scheduled fundraisers in about 16 states now through the middle and end of October.

So we've, I think, raised probably more money in the last couple of — three weeks of August than we had, you know, in the previous couple or three months, online, and so in other words, things...

WALLACE: Like how much?

HUCKABEE: You know, I don't know the exact figures and, of course, if I told you, I'd have to take your life, so I couldn't give you that, but it's substantially more.

And I think the thing for us is we're seeing a momentum that we just weren't seeing before, people sort of holding back, wondering did we have the traction.

And now they have truly begun to understand that our campaign, even with limited resources, had a spectacular showing in Iowa. And they know that with resources there's no reason we couldn't catapult to the front.

WALLACE: But it's still going to be a tough, long slog. And let's take a look, if we can, at the FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll that's out this week. It shows, as you can see there, you're still in sixth place at 3 percent.

So what's your strategy? How do you become — from still quite a long shot, how do you come a front-tier candidate?

HUCKABEE: Well, you know, so far, we've been everything from no shot to long shot now to slingshot. And I think we're at a point where as we look for the next level, it's really — is our message is connecting, and it is.

The polls really don't reflect the core voters. It reflects name identification, which improves with each debate. It improves with each showing, like Iowa.

But what really is showing up — when we were in New Hampshire last week, everywhere we went we were expecting certain numbers of crowds, maybe 50 people. We'd have 200.

So we're seeing anywhere from two to four times the number of people come out and enthusiastically receiving the message that I'm giving.

People, I think, appreciate that it's not a message that sounds like it's come from a room full of consultants. It's come from a candidate's convictions.

And there's sort of a refreshing acceptance that people are looking for somebody who can honestly say what he believes and believes what he says.

WALLACE: You talk about New Hampshire. There is talk that you're planning to ambush Mitt Romney in his own backyard of New Hampshire, following the model of Pat Buchanan when he was running against George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton against Paul Tsongas.

One, is it true? And two, how do you plan to do that?

HUCKABEE: Well, I wouldn't call the — maybe the strategy "ambush." We're going after a victory there. And it's not an ambush. It's a straight up — we're trying to win. I think we will win.

WALLACE: Why New Hampshire?

HUCKABEE: Because voters there are very savvy. They look for a person who truly has the convictions and sticks by them.

Even if it's not necessarily what they agree with, they want you to look them in the eye and give them a straight answer and give it to them the same way tomorrow as you gave it to them today.

They want someone whose views on the Second Amendment understand that the basic issue is one of freedom and it's not hunting.

They want somebody who talks about true tax reform like the fair tax. They embrace that idea in New Hampshire when I talk about it — a complete just gutting of this incredibly complex and arcane tax code we have and replace it with a simple consumption tax that really elevates our economy, gives it a fresh start.

People like those kind of ideas that are bigger and fresher than the carefully tuned and tweaked sort of version of minor reform. That's just not what New Hampshire voters, I think, are expecting and looking for in their next president.

WALLACE: I keep getting a subtext in a lot of your answers. And in fact, you've been even more explicit in going after Mitt Romney recently, and let's take a look at that.

You said, "Leadership is not about having enough money that you can buy the presidency." You also introduced yourself to New Hampshire voters this way, "Here's a guy who didn't just become pro-life to run for president. Here's a guy who didn't just read the latest issue of NRA Magazine and decide he's going to be for the Second Amendment."

When did nice guy Mike Huckabee become an attack dog?

HUCKABEE: I don't think I'm an attack dog. Certainly, there's going to be contrasts, and I didn't mention anybody's name, and it could apply to several Republican candidates.

WALLACE: Including Mitt Romney?

HUCKABEE: You know, there's a saying in the South, Chris. We like to say, "If you throw a rock across the fence, it's the hit dog who hollers." So the point being that sometimes if people start reacting very — just vociferously to something said, maybe there's a reason they're reacting to it.

I'm going to continue to show that there is a different kind of Republican in this race. And I want to talk about what's going to really bring this party back together, because we're pretty fractured right now, and what can give us the juice to not only bring the party together, but how can we win in 2008.

And it's going to require a message that captures the imagination and attention of a lot of voters out there in America who kind of are turned off to the Republicans right now.

WALLACE: And let's talk about an area where maybe Mike Huckabee is the hit dog who's howling.


WALLACE: The conservative Club for Growth ran ads in Iowa before the straw poll attacking you as a tax and spender during your years as governor of Arkansas.

Let's take a look at one of their ads.


NARRATOR: Higher sales taxes. Gas taxes. Grocery taxes. Even higher taxes on nursing home beds.


WALLACE: The fact is, Senator, as governor you did sign tax increases on gasoline, on cigarettes, on nursing home patients. You did allow a 17 percent sales tax increase to go into law.

HUCKABEE: Well, let's take a look at those. And first of all, I have to be a little flattered that the Club for Growth targeted me with $100,000 of ads in a state where no one thought I was even playing seriously.

And you have to wonder, "Where did that money come from? Who gave them that money in order to run those ads?" And I think that would be a great question for somebody to dig to the bottom of.

But you know, in the attacks...

WALLACE: Do you have some idea?

HUCKABEE: I have to think it may be one of the other candidates. I don't know who and I don't even know why other than, again, as Abe Lincoln said when he was run out of town on a rail, "If it weren't for the honor of it, I'd just as soon pass."

WALLACE: But let me ask you about that, because you called the Club for Growth, which is a reliably conservative group, the club for greed.

Why would a conservative group single you out and run, as you say, about $100,000 in ads to warn Iowa voters that you're a tax and spender?

HUCKABEE: Well, because you've got to understand the Club for Growth or club for greed, however you want to call them...

WALLACE: Well, it's not me. It's you, sir.

HUCKABEE: Yeah, and I did call them that, and I would do it again. They essentially operate when people give them money specifically targeted toward someone that they want to take out.

They hide behind the anonymity of the organization. They don't come out and say, "Here I am. I'm writing a check and I'm going to spend it against this guy."

NewsMax, for example, did, I thought, a wonderful story in which they pretty much debunked the Club for Growth's ad and its content and the attacks. And you know, there are nuances of a state government and running one that — I'm quite proud of having navigated a ship through troubled waters in Arkansas.

WALLACE: But in fairness, it's not just the Club for Growth. The Cato Institute, another conservative think tank, gave you a "D" on taxes for your 10 years as governor.

Americans for Tax Reform, another conservative group, said that state spending during your first eight years as governor increased by 65 percent.

HUCKABEE: But once again, if you look at our state spending compared to any others, it's about the same, because state spending is based often on federal pass-throughs on things like Medicaid, over which we have no control.

And that's why you have to honestly take an analysis of how the budget is constructed and where the set points are. Budgeting under me during my time as governor increased about 0.5 percent a year for the 10.5 years I was governor.

When you look at the things that I actually had control to control — and that's a big difference than simply throwing out these wild accusations that I'm a tax and spender.

WALLACE: The shoe that hasn't dropped yet in this campaign is that it appears that some day, maybe in the next couple of weeks, Fred Thompson is going to get into this race.

Isn't another southerner with a long conservative record and one who's compared to Ronald Reagan with a larger-than-life presence — isn't that going to steal some of your spotlight?

HUCKABEE: Well, let's just hope Fred decides it's just too hot this summer to even do this. Maybe he won't get in.

But if he does, I think he's going to suck a lot of the oxygen out of the room when he first comes in. But I'm not sure I'd want to be in his position where the expectations are simply just sky-high for him to be able to perform.

You know, I'm in a position where — I'd rather be in a position to over perform than to get in and then underperform the expectations. And so far, that's what we've done.

No one expected us to do as well in Iowa. We've done it. No one was expecting us to draw the kind of crowds and momentum in New Hampshire. We're doing it.

People are expecting him to basically come in and be the fifth head on Mount Rushmore. Whether he can live up to that — I think there's a real challenge for anybody to live up to that, including if Ronald Reagan were to come back. I'm not sure he could live up to Ronald Reagan's persona and image at this stage.

WALLACE: Finally, there's a lot of speculation that Mike Huckabee would make a good running mate, especially for someone like Rudy Giuliani, who's got some questions about his stands on social issues.

Are you vice presidential material?

HUCKABEE: Well, I'd like to think I'm presidential material. You know, the point is I've never seen a guy say, "I'm going to the Olympics and, man, my goal is to be the silver medalist." Nobody says, "That's what, you know, I spent my whole life working toward, is being number two."

So, no, I'm not sitting around thinking about, "Gosh, what if I could be vice president?" I'm thinking about, "What would happen if I could become president," how I would lead this country, what I would do to reform taxes, what I would do to try to bring a domestic agenda that builds this country back so we have some strength.

And I think the voters are still going to respond to me when they get a chance to hear the message. That's what we're saying and that's what I'm confident they're going to continue to see.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, thank you for coming in. I know you had to fly through a lot of thunderstorms through the night to get here. We very much appreciate it. And continued safe travels on the campaign trail, sir.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Chris.