Transcript: Mike Huckabee on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Jan. 27, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: As we continue our series "Choosing the President," we are joined by former governor Mike Huckabee, who comes to us from the campaign trail in Florida, which holds its primary on Tuesday.

And, Governor, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, Chris, it's good to still be on my feet and still plugging away and great to be back with you.

WALLACE: Let's start with the two frontrunners in Florida. John McCain says that Mitt Romney once supported a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Romney says McCain is being, quote, "dishonest." Who's right?

HUCKABEE: I've never known John McCain to be dishonest. He and I disagree on some issues, certainly on immigration and how we ought to build a border fence by a time certain, which I believe. I support a human life amendment. He does not.

But dishonest? I've never seen John McCain say something that was just blatantly untrue. The reason that I'm aware of Mitt Romney's statement about the secret timetable is because that was originally proposed by a senator from my state, Senator Mark Pryor.

And there are published reports that I've witnessed and seen, more than one, in which Mitt Romney did, in fact, talk about support for not a public timetable but a secret timetable that would be held by administration officials, members of Congress.

WALLACE: Governor Romney says that with the economy now the top issue in voters' minds that he's the most qualified to fix it because of his long career in business, but I understand that you are not quite so impressed by his record in the private sector.

HUCKABEE: Well, not only not as impressed with the record in the private sector, but also think that it's more important to be able to run the public sector to run a government, which I did longer than anyone running for president, Democrat or Republican.

And I steered a state through good times and bad times. We went through a recession. I saw our state go from a $200 million deficit to an $850 million surplus.

I also presided over the largest job creation in the history of my state as well as a per capita income increase of 50 percent during my tenure.

That's the kind of record people want you to be able to bring to the table when you're president of the United States. So I would argue and contend that I've really got probably the best preparation to lead this country during a time like this.

And I would also remind people that when Mitt Romney and other Republicans a few months ago in Dearborn, Michigan at the debate were talking about how great the economy was -- I was jeered and sneered, but I was the one who said, "Well, it may not be that great," and I said, "You're talking only to the people who are like you on this stage, who are at the top of the economy."

I said then, "If you'll talk to people who are driving the trucks across the interstates of America, if you talk to the people handling the bags and serving the food, they'll tell you a different story of the economy."

We often hear about trickle-down economics. Well, there's a sense in which there is a trickle-up effect of a recession. It starts and hits hardest at the people who are just making it from paycheck to paycheck.

It takes a while for it to get to Wall Street, but it hits Main Street pretty hard, and it hits them early. And I was understanding that, seeing it and predicting it. People were laughing at me then.

Now they have to admit I was right. And I think that that's the kind of president we need, is someone who's in touch with all sectors of the American public, not just the people at the top.

WALLACE: On the other hand -- and you have been critical of Romney for the fact that he laid off people when he was at Bain Capital -- you've been much kinder to John McCain, although, as you did at the top, you pointed out some differences with him on some issues, but so much kinder that some people have suggested that maybe you're trying to help McCain beat Romney in order to get a position either as vice president or cabinet official in a McCain White House.

So you can put that to rest right here right now, Governor, if you want to slam John McCain.

HUCKABEE: I don't have to slam John McCain. I think that presidential politics can be civil. I think people can have mutual respect for each other.

John McCain and I have entered into this race both looking for the same job. I'm not looking to be on his ticket. I don't think he's looking to be on mine.

I think that the issue is that we have a civil approach to the presidential process. Neither of us have sought to win the office by cracking the kneecaps of the other. We've talked about what we want to do.

And what I've focused on is that I think my experience as an executive of a government -- I think my experience both in the private and public sector give me the right kind of understanding of how to lead this country not only in issues of economics, but also in terms of national security, understanding America's got to be strong, and also being a person who has clarity when it comes to wanting to do some things that would really change the economy of the nation, like getting rid of the IRS, implementing the fair tax, which really would give us a completely different dynamic, focusing on things like infrastructure when nobody else has been talking about it.

But I also am a person who believes very strongly that at the centerpiece of our culture and civilization, we need to be a culture of life. We need to respect human life and its worth and its dignity.

That's brought people to the campaign, not just evangelicals, but Catholics and even people who aren't people of faith but people who do believe that if we go wrong on how we treat each other as human beings, then everything else can't be right.

WALLACE: Let's talk a little bit, if we can, about the horse race, Governor. According to the latest polls, you're running a somewhat distant fourth in Florida, which is winner take all.

So why waste your time and money in Florida? Why not focus on states that you might have a better chance in, such as Super Tuesday?

HUCKABEE: We are spending some time in the Super Tuesday states. We also are doing quite well in those states. If you look at our numbers in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, we're going to have a good day on Super Tuesday. I don't think...

WALLACE: Yes, let me just interrupt...

HUCKABEE: ... we've wasted time in Florida.

WALLACE: ... you for a second if I can, and let's put up...


WALLACE: ... a map we have of what's called the so-called southern strategy of Mike Huckabee. And this is seven states, border states and southern states. Those are where you're going to be focusing on Super Tuesday.

But aren't you going to get swamped if you're focusing in those states and not competing actively in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California?

HUCKABEE: You know, a lot of polls I've seen -- we're second in California. We probably aren't going to win New York, although, you know, we've been in some states where we didn't win.

But you know what, Chris? People are forgetting I'm second in delegate count. And the last polls that came out this week, that -- where the Wall Street Journal NBC polls had me second nationally, a pretty strong second, in fact, significantly ahead of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

So when people say, you know, "How come you're not doing well in," I say, "Wait a minute, back up and look at this. This is a national election. And at the national level, I'm doing quite well."

And particularly if you look at the fact that we're doing it with volunteers. We're doing it with people who go to, meet each other in these meet-up groups. In all 50 states there are people gathering on their own. They're buying their own materials, their own yard signs.

We have hundreds and hundreds of truck drivers who are putting magnetic signs on their trucks driving across America campaigning for us. It's a pretty remarkable story. And it's being driven not by, you know, a handful of folks writing big checks.

It's being driven by ordinary people like the janitor I met last night in Birmingham, Alabama who has a wife who's disabled. He's giving us $20 a month because he's just convinced that I'm the kind of person who will represent him and his family, and I think that's the remarkable story of our campaign.

WALLACE: Governor, I know you're pretty busy with the Republican race, but I wonder whether you've had time to notice what's going on with the Democrats and the way that Bill and Hillary Clinton are tag- teaming Barack Obama.

HUCKABEE: I do pay attention, because, after all, you've got to remember, I'm the only person running for president who's faced the Clinton political machine before. I understand it better than anybody else running for president.

And I can certainly watch with some sense of, I guess, maybe educated perception about what's taking place.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that. Are you at all surprised by the way Bill Clinton is going after Barack Obama?

Some say he seems more like a vice presidential hatchet man than he does like a former president. Are you surprised by the way he's going after Obama? And how do you think a Clinton White House would work? Would they share power?

HUCKABEE: Well, Chris, you know, because we've talked before, I have great respect and have a cordial and civil relationship with the Clintons, even though we've been on opposite sides of political races every time I've ever run or every time they've run.

But I understand there are not two people who are better at street fighting politics than Bill and Hillary Clinton. And I've been telling people a long time, "Don't underestimate the scrappiness with which they'll approach this race." So no, I'm not surprised.

And in fact, I think the one thing you have to keep your eyes on is that tactics will change, but the goal will never, ever fade, and that is win, whatever it takes to do it.

And they didn't get to where they are, either Bill or Hillary Clinton, by sort of just mapping out a plan and saying, "That's what we're going to do regardless of the results."

If the results start changing, as they did in South Carolina, look for different tactics. They'll do what they think it will require in order to win.

WALLACE: Governor, we have less than two minutes left, and I want to get into one last area with you.

You surprised some people at the last Republican debate when you said that Saddam Hussein may, in fact, have had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. Let's take a look at what you said.


HUCKABEE: Now, everybody can look back and say, "Oh, well, we didn't find the weapons." It doesn't mean they weren't there. Just because you didn't find every Easter egg didn't mean that it wasn't planted.


WALLACE: Governor, the Iraq survey group looked around Iraq for months after the invasion, could find no evidence that Saddam Hussein had an active program, a WMD program, when he was ousted, any active stockpile of weapons.

Do you have any evidence for that contention?

HUCKABEE: Oh, I don't have any evidence. But he was the one who announced openly that he did have weapons of mass destruction. He was also the one who had used similar weapons in the past.

I think let's remember, too, that both Democrats and Republicans and our intelligence agencies believed that he had them.

My point was that, no, we didn't find them. Did they get into Syria? Did they get into some remote area of Jordan? Did they go to some other place? We don't know. They may not have existed.

But simply saying, "We didn't find them, so therefore they didn't exist," is a bit of an overreach. And the bigger point is that at the time we went into the war -- and that was really the question, should we have gone in.

If we had not have gone in and he had unleashed weapons of mass destruction, then everybody would be second-guessing the president and saying, "We should have taken action. The president was derelict in his duty."

So it's so easy. It's like sitting down Monday morning at breakfast with your buddies and talking about why the quarterback of the NFL team didn't get the winning play.

But you know what? If you've been on the NFL field and you've taken a couple of hits from 300-pound linemen, it's a little, I guess, maybe different perspective in what you should have done.

So I think let's give the president some credit for taking action that he thought would, in fact, help America. And Democrats agreed with him. And now it's easy to second-guess, but I'm grateful that the president was willing to take what actions he thought would make America safer.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for coming in today. Always a pleasure to talk with you, sir.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Chris.