This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," February 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, just minutes ago, Mitt Romney endorsing John McCain. How does this affect one Michael Huckabee?
He joins us on the phone right now.
Governor, very good to have you. Thank you.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, Neil. Good to be back.
CAVUTO: What do you think of this?
HUCKABEE: Well, I think it's probably one of those things we all could expect. You know. There is a me-too crowd going on right now. And I just happen to be the leader of the not-me crowd.
And I think it's because there are those of us who got into this race because of their deep commitment to some principles that we believe in, still believe in those things. I may get beat, but I'm not one to quit. It's just not in my nature.
CAVUTO: So, governor, do you think, statistically, you have a chance at winning this nomination?
HUCKABEE: You know, I know that, as far as winning it through the delegate count, that's going to be challenging. The question is, does either of us get to 1,191 before the convention? That's probably the best shot that I would have.
CAVUTO: OK. So, your best hope is that, on March 4, as many suspect, John McCain doesn't wrap all this up
HUCKABEE: That's possible.
And, you know, I think that, when the Republicans get to the place where we don't really want to have elections anymore, let's just let a backroom of folks get together and fill it full of smoky cigars and pick a person and let it be. But if we're really going to have an election, where we go through all these states and let the people of these states have a choice, then let's give them a choice. That's what I think is important.
Right now, if I walk off the stage, people in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, they're essentially being told, thank you, don't even need to hear from you, we have already made the decision without you.
I think that's an insult to people who worked very hard in those states to be Republicans just as much as in the states that went early.
CAVUTO: All right. But, in those states, Governor, if, by then, John McCain has the delegates necessary for the nomination, at that point, do you call it quits?
HUCKABEE: Well, sure. Once somebody beats me, if they get 1,191 then he's got the delegates to wrap up the nomination, but that's been what I have said all along. That's the criteria.
I'm not one that, just because the game isn't going my way late in the third or fourth quarter, says, you know, I'm just tired of playing. I got in this to win. And I want to be running at full speed right up until the last second of the clock ticks.
When somebody gets to 1,191, then I have got to accept the verdict, but, until then, I want to continue to give voters in these states an opportunity to say there are some issues that are very important. We want a conservative that will speak for us and — and for whom there will always be an understanding of what things are that really matter to Republicans, like the Human Life Amendment, lower taxes, a person who totally subscribes to the idea of transforming our tax system and getting rid of the IRS.
Those are things that got me to this place here. And to walk away would be to walk away from my supporters and to listen to the chorus of people who never supported me in the first place. The only people who are asking me to quit, you have got to remember, Neil, are the people who never supported me and have supported other candidates.
So, should I listen to them, instead of my own supporters? I don't think that makes any sense at all.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Governor, Senator McCain has not been among those urging you to step down. In fact, he has endorsed your continuing to be in this race. But he has not called for any debates with you. In fact, he has assiduously avoided you. So, isn't that just as damning?
HUCKABEE: No. Well, I think he's doing exactly what I would do if the situation were reversed. The more he — that he can ignore me, the more he hopes that people in places like Wisconsin will forget there is an election going on.
I hope that his folks do think that it's over, but that my people will come out Tuesday and vote and say, let us be heard from. That would be the kind of message we need to send. I am hoping the same thing happens in Texas and Ohio. So, people are going to make this decision, but I'm not going to let the politicians in Washington or the pundits make this decision for me.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Governor, do you find yourself in the odd position? You and Senator McCain always seem very close, very respectful of each other. And it was Governor Mitt Romney who you both seemed to not gang up on, but attack more than you certainly ever hit each other.
And, yet, we are in this odd position today where it's Governor Romney kumbaya-ing with Senator McCain, acknowledging the fact that it was a tension convention campaign. And then you are Mr. Friendly Governor Huckabee, the odd man out, challenging the presumed nominee.
It is a little weird, is it not?
HUCKABEE: Well, one thing about it, Neil, if John McCain and I end up standing on the stage together to congratulate one or the other, neither of us will have to put in an Oscar-winning performance or take acting lessons before we go up on that stage and carry out our roles.
CAVUTO: Do you think that's what was going — do you think that's what was going on up there?
HUCKABEE: I'm just saying I won't have to fake it at all. Senator McCain knows I have nothing but the highest respect for him. I think he does for me. Our relationship has been cordial.
I don't have to go and, behind the scenes, apologize or hope nothing gets brought up that's been said in the past. We have a good, clean record. And I see no reason not to keep it that way.
CAVUTO: You don't like Governor Romney, do you?
HUCKABEE: It's not a matter of not liking him. I was disappointed in the way that he ran his campaign, where he attacked Senator McCain, he attacked Rudy Giuliani, he attacked me.
And, then when we pointed out areas of his own record, he would then say that it was a personal attack. And I just thought that, you know, if you're going to — if you're going to throw fastballs, you better expect, when you step up to the plate, you're going to get a few.
CAVUTO: Did you just resent the fact that he had money and was spending it, or was it the fact that he was this outsider? I know, too, you're an outsider, but you're a long-term governor and all that, but that there was just resentment toward Governor Romney, period?
HUCKABEE: No, it really wasn't a matter of resentment for Governor Romney. I had respect for him.
In fact, prior to this race, he and I had had a very cordial relationship. I just didn't appreciate that there was an enormous amount of money spent to distort and actually misrepresent my record. I had a very strong record of fiscal conservatism, of cutting taxes, holding spending, a record I'm very proud of.
And I watched people distort it and totally misrepresent it and paint me to be something that I had never been accused of in my life. And that was being left of center.
CAVUTO: Do you think that's why, Governor...
HUCKABEE: And I just didn't appreciate that.
CAVUTO: I'm sorry, sir.
Do you think that's why still even some stalwart conservatives in the party are leery of you, not to the degree they are of John McCain, but — but to some degree?
HUCKABEE: Well, I think that certain images were portrayed by Club for Growth, which, by the way, was funded in large part by some Mitt Romney supporters.
That did contribute to this — this question mark. The good thing for me is that, when some more objective people started really looking at the record, they found that the tax burden went up only two-tenths-of-1-percent over a 10-and-a-half-year period, that we had done significant things to create job growth and per capita income growth, and that the record was remarkably solid.
And what made that even more significant was that it was done in the face of an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, there were a couple of — it's always anonymous Republican insiders, Governor, so I apologize when I quote them, because you clearly know their agenda. But one of them was quoted as saying that, "the more Governor Huckabee pushes this thing, the more he hurts his chances on the running mate thing."
What do you make of that?
HUCKABEE: Well, I don't know. I don't make much of it at all, because I was never in this to be a running mate. I was in this to be president. And I'm in it to represent a lot of people for whom there is a feeling that they have become invisible to many people in our party.
And I think that it's important that this isn't about me. It's about the message. And it's not about the party. It's about the principles. And, frankly — you know, the same criticism was thrown at Ronald Reagan. He was so hated by the establishment in 1976, because he didn't just challenge the presumptive nominee. He challenged a sitting president. Now, that's just something you don't do.
But he did it because he felt like that there was a very strong conservative message that needed to be heard.
HUCKABEE: And, now, people don't even remember that, but, boy, they remembered it in 1976, and resented it highly. But it seemed like he overcame that pretty well.
CAVUTO: Are up hinting that that might be what happens here, that a certain guy named Huckabee emerges as a very prominent force in 2012?
HUCKABEE: No, I'm just saying that Republicans have a way of sort of wanting to circle the wagons, and, sometimes, they forget that the real goal ought to be to stick by our principles.
I think these folks who say, let's quit having an election, I find that, frankly, disgusting, that we are going to be harmed by a reasonable debate and discussion? People in these other states have a right to get their votes counted. If I walk off, and I quit now, and it becomes the coronation that some want it to be, then the people of Wisconsin, where I am right now, and the people of Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, these other states, what are they being told, that we don't even need to hear from you, we have already made the decision before we got there?
I just don't think that's healthy for the party, and certainly not the way to encourage future participation.
CAVUTO: All right.
Governor Huckabee, thank you for taking the time. We know you have got a pretty frantic schedule. We appreciate it.
HUCKABEE: Thank you very much, Neil. Good to talk to you, as always.
CAVUTO: All right, Governor Mike Huckabee.
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