This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," November 15, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." We get right to our top story tonight. People are calling him the hot conservative candidate for president. Now according to a new American Research poll released earlier today in the state of Iowa, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has pulled to within 2 points of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, meaning the race in Iowa for the Republican nomination may be too close to call. Governor Huckabee, he joins us now.

Governor, that's good news for you. What's happening in Iowa?

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think our ground game is working, Sean. It's about the message. People are relating to the fact. They want a person who has a good record of executive experience. I think they see in me an independent conservative, somebody that they can trust to be faithful and true on the issues.

But, we have just got a great organization there. Frankly, beyond that Sean, I can't explain it, either. To tell you the honest truth, it's beyond me to understand either.

HANNITY: But it's something, obviously, you are working hard on and something you want to achieve. You have conducted yourself very well in these debates. There is a lot more fire coming in your direction, and it seems to be on two very specific issues. And, tonight, I thought we would address them.

The first one being some comments that specifically you made and ideas that you had as governor regarding immigration.

HUCKABEE: Sean, I believe we ought to have a strong, secure border, build a fence. I believe we shouldn't have amnesty, and we shouldn't have sanctuary cities. The one area I'm being attacked on is while governor I did propose that if children had been in our public schools for their entire career and had excelled academically, that we would allow them to go to college in Arkansas and be able to also have the academic challenge scholarship and pay in-state tuition because, after all, they were in-state students and had earned that same academic standing as others.

The idea is they had to be citizens or in the process of applying. They also had to commit to making sure they were drug- and alcohol-free. And the basic concept, and I know this is still an anathema to some people, I don't believe you punish the children for the crime and sins of the parents.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this, because your chief opponent now, and you guys are neck-in-neck in this poll in Iowa that we just referred to here, Governor Romney said: "Giving a better deal to the children of illegal aliens than we give to U.S. citizens from surrounding states is simply not fair and it is not right.

So how do you respond to him?

HUCKABEE: We didn't give them a better deal because they were from another state, the point is they are just kids in those other states didn't go to our high schools. We didn't educate them. They didn't achieve the same standards of academic excellence in our schools.

These other kids had. And the point, Sean, we have to decide, do we punish the children for the sins of a parent? I think our country is better than that. Now, you know what? That's a deal-breaker for some people and they are going to be saying, well, Huckabee is off, that's fine.

There are other people who want to punish children. Go for it.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this, is it really punishing children? In other words, if people that have entered this country illegally, if we give them in-state tuition breaks, isn't that some type of reward for law-breaking?

In other words, we know the impact that immigration has had on our educational system, our criminal justice system, and our health care system. So if we offer in-state tuition breaks for families that broke the law and didn't respect our laws, isn't that some type of reward? That's a fair argument back, is it not?

HUCKABEE: I'm sure it will be an argument that will be made. But my point is, if a kid is drug here when he is 5 or 6 years old by his parents and he had no choice whether he was here or not, do you continue to push him down?

And here's the issue, if is he going to become a citizen and he's going to become a taxpayer rather than a tax-taker, our real problem is that we have a dysfunctional government that never secured our borders. They have never done anything to fix this problem. And it really is something that requires some leadership.

If I were president, we would secure the borders. We would stop the sanctuary cities and the amnesty. We would make it tougher on employers, because we would put the burden on them to make sure they weren't hiring illegal people.

But on the same front, I would not punish a child for the crime that a parent committed. We don't do that with bank robbery. We don't do it with other things as well.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Governor, it's Alan Colmes. Welcome back to our show. Hey, wasn't it much more fun when you weren't doing so well?


HUCKABEE: Oh, I'm having a great time now. You know, the fact that the attacks are coming, it's a form of flattery. And I have to, quite frankly, get back and enjoy it. You know, I spent an entire political career in Arkansas. And it wasn't exactly an easy road running against the headwinds of the Clinton political machine, which I did my entire political life. So this is nothing new. And I will face a heck of a lot worse than I'm facing now.

COLMES: Among the things — and here your chance on "Hannity & Colmes" to address some of these issues now. Among the things coming up now is that you were admonished for violations five times in 14 years by the Arkansas Ethics Commission for things like taking money from an organization whose donors had not been listed and I go down the list.

Obviously you are familiar with that. Do you have any ethical problem that's going to flourish as you might do better in the polls?

HUCKABEE: No. Absolutely not. I mean the fact is, in the climate of Arkansas, the politics of personal destruction was alive and well. And when they couldn't beat you on policies and when they couldn't beat you at the ballot box, they resorted to attacks on everything imaginable. I weathered them, I got through them. We overcame them largely because the truth was on our side.

I mean, I have been accused of enough stuff. I'm expecting any day to be indicted in Arkansas for the kidnapping of the Lindbergh Baby and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. I mean, you just have to understand that the climate that we worked in.

But you know what? If half the stuff that is being thrown now were true, I would be an inmate somewhere with a number across my chest.

COLMES: What about issues like 43,000 for lieutenant governor's campaign for use of — from your 1994 lieutenant governor campaign for use of a personal airplane; 14,000, your wife has claimed to have received from a 1992 U.S. Senate campaign. Are these valid?

HUCKABEE: Well, let me give you — let me give you — no, let me tell you what happened on the airplane thing. We mortgaged our home, took out a second mortgage in order to use an airplane so that we could save a whole lot more money than it would cost to have chartered. The 43,000 was not profit. We didn't get a dime of it. We actually lost money. That was the reimbursement for the pilot and the fuel expenses for the airplane that was clearly spelled out.

And you still have people throwing that at us. It's going to be like that throughout the entire presidential process. The good news for me is there is nothing being thrown at me that hadn't been thrown before. But this is like uncooked spaghetti. It just doesn't stick on the wall.

COLMES: All right. Governor, we thank you very much. Actually going to come right back with more Mike Huckabee right after the break.

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