Mike Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas and the current host of “HUCKABEE” on the Fox News Channel. In 2008, he ran in the United States Republican presidential primaries; he is currently considering a run in the 2016 presidential election. Huckabee, who is a 2014 IOP Visiting Fellow, spoke at the JFK Jr. Forum on April 14. FM sat down with Huckabee to talk to him about same-sex marriage, higher education, and the 2016 race.
FM: In December you told Fox News you were 50–50 on [running for president in] 2016, and I know that you’re not announcing yet until after the midterm elections in November, but if you were to pinpoint another percentage on that, would you still say you were 50–50?
Mike Huckabee: Oh, I wouldn’t even attempt to put a percentage on it. I’m just very open to it, and I’m assessing whether or not there is a viable pathway through the primary.
FM: Referring to your speech last week in Iowa...there’s current developing trends that youth are becoming more in favor of marriage equality and your views are separate from that. With youth becoming more and more of the voting percentage, how do you and other conservative politicians [who want] to win the votes of youth [balance that] with keeping your stance on controversial topics that you know they will disagree with?
MH: I’ve found that most voters are mature enough that they’d rather you be honest, genuine, and authentic than for you to just take a position because they know that that’s what the audience wants to hear. The position that I hold is the same one that Barack Obama held, same one Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden held in 2008, and until 2012 Barack Obama continued to hold that position. What I would remind people of is it wasn’t just that he held that position, that he held that for the exact same reason that I do. He said ‘because I’m a Christian and because I think the biblical model is for man-woman marriage.’ That’s what he said in 2008 at the Saddleback Church, in that forum, so my question would be, is there any other option other than he wasn’t being honest and he’s not being honest now or somehow the bible got rewritten between 2008 and 2012 and someone forgot to tell a bunch of us? How does a person continually move on an issue like that when he bases it on a biblical record and on a faith norm, and then completely change it without explanation? I hold a position that I’ve held and hold it because of those convictions. I realize it’s not the position that a lot of other people hold. I don’t have any animosity from people who differ with me. I think that’s what makes America a great place and a great country.
FM: There’s a lot of news about Hillary [Clinton potentially running for president in 2016] but no one’s really sure who’s emerging from [the Democrats]. Can you pick out a name of who you think, from the Democratic side, would give the republican ticket the most trouble in the upcoming election?
MH: I think Hillary would be a very formidable candidate because she has such a strong base of support. There would be a lot of people who would want to support her because it would be an opportunity to do something historic with the first female president, and she’s certainly skilled and capable as a candidate and I think that would make it a very tough hill to climb, but not insurmountable. And probably of anyone that might run on the Republican side, my guess is I probably know the Clintons better than anybody else, so it wouldn’t be that big of a disadvantage for me.
FM: Do you think the Republicans when they’re deciding who will emerge as the frontrunner will take into account where Hillary stands?
MH: Probably not, the Republicans aren’t that smart. The Republicans probably will have the normal demolition derby and whoever’s left standing will be the nominee. I don’t think they’ll be thoughtful enough to think about those issues, but maybe we should.
FM: You were educated at two Baptist universities with religious affiliations. A lot of other head politicians these days—Barack Obama, Ted Cruz—have Ivy League degrees and are able to use those in their campaigning as another resume booster of why they’re qualified. What role does higher education play in running for political positions?
MH: I think it’s an important part of one's background and story. I don’t feel like I had a diminished education because of where I went. I’ve run against several Harvard graduates in my political career, I’ve beat all of them at the state level. I’ve debated them, I felt equal to the task, and never thought I was bested. I respect people who go to Ivy League schools but I don’t somehow believe that that alone is tantamount to necessarily be superior preparation to serving in public. I ultimately think that serving in a public office is not so much about what you know, but it’s about what you are willing to do. There’s a great phrase that I believe very strongly. It’s one that says ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I think that’s really how one approaches politics. Ronald Reagan went to a small, independent school, and he turned out okay. While education is vital, where one gets it is of less consequence than if one understands that the purpose of college is not to give all the skills you need, it’s to teach you how to learn, and you spend the rest of your life always in school, always learning, never coming to the place where you think you know it all.
This interview has been condensed and edited.