Mike Huckabee appeared on a podcast with Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes this week, where he was asked by Starnes about his inability to win the backing of many evangelical groups during his 2016 run. You can read the transcript of Huckabee’s comments below:
STARNES: Did you anticipate getting the backing early on of those evangelical conservative leaders?
HUCKABEE: Well, quite frankly, of course I hoped for it and never took it for granted, but I’ve also lived and swam in this evangelical soup long enough to know that it’s not always very predictable because it’s not always about the principles and the convictions sometimes. It’s about really more of self-preservation for the organizations. And I hate to be so blunt, but quite frankly I’ve seen this before, where they went with not the person who best represented their views, their values, or a commitment to their causes, but they went in the area of convenience and who they thought might win. And I remember back in ’08, there were several major evangelicals who said, ‘Well, I think you’re a better fit for us politically. We believe you would fight for our cause. But we think candidate X is going to win’ – in many cases they thought it was Romney – and they said ‘We just want to make sure we have a seat at the table.’ So having a seat at the table, they thought, was more important than actually owning the table.
And I just found that to be consistent through 26 years of running for office – that you have some people – and I’ll say Franklin Graham is one of them, who I think is an incredibly principled guy, who doesn’t think about who’s gonna win, who’s gonna lose, it’s who really shares those convictions. And then quite frankly you have some who will go the way of convenience, and some that will go the way of cash – where the donations come from, that has a lot to do with whether or not there’s going to be support. Sometimes an organization’s key donors will say, ‘I want you to support candidate X,’ and the organization answers more to its donors than it does to its own charter.
STARNES: So you really think that in some cases, some of these groups may have been swayed by donor cash as opposed to principle?
HUCKABEE: Well, I would be shocked if that didn’t happen, because it always does. If an organization’s key donors express their interest in a particular candidate, then that often is the persuading factor. And I’ve had that said to me on several occasions. And I’ve also had other occasions where I’ve had would-be donors tell me that they would only support me if I would promise not to support real strong positions on same-sex marriage or sanctity of life. Clearly these were not the evangelical donors; these were more establishment, fiscal-conservative Republicans. But when I said, ‘Look, I can’t just abandon issues that for me are moral issues’, they were very polite and told me, ‘Well, thank you, but I’ll be supporting someone else,’ and they are. That’s just part of the price you pay.
STARNES: What gets me here, Governor, is that you’ve always been here for these guys. You’ve been speaking at their conferences, endorsing their projects and their causes and their books. Do you feel a sense of betrayal from these folks?
HUCKABEE: Well, certainly a sense of disappointment, and yet I do understand because, as I’ve often said, I don’t go to them, I come from them, but because of that I do understand them. And a lot of them, quite frankly, I think are scared to death that if a guy like me got elected, I would actually do what I said I would do, and that is, I would focus on the personhood of every individual. We would abolish abortion based on the Fifth and 14th Amendment. We would ignore the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. And you know what the result would be? A lot of these organizations wouldn’t have the ability to do urgent fundraising because if we slay the dragon, what dragon do they continue to fight? And so, for many of them, it could be a real detriment to their organization’s abilities to gin up their supporters and raise the contributions. And I know that sounds very cynical but, Todd, it is what it is.
I think sometimes, while people say, ‘we’re praying about this, we’re asking God,’ that’s fine, but it seems like the criteria that I’ve been told for selecting candidates seems very secular. It’s about well, this person is polling well, this person has the cash. And I’m thinking, you know, if these guys were going up against Goliath, they would’ve insisted that it was the big guy, with the king’s armor — they never would’ve allowed that shepherd boy with the sling and five smooth stones, and with Gideon’s army. They would’ve run for cover when God got Gideon’s army down to 300.
So, you know, either we believe in a great God, who overcomes the obstacles, or we don’t. and if we’re going to live by secular standards, and if we’re going to fight our battles solely on the basis of human and traditional political standards and not by moral standards, then I just want these organizations to be a little more honest and tell their donors that, ‘Look, we’re just a club, we’re an organization. We will talk about prayer but we don’t necessarily believe that it will change things. We’ll still look at very secular pieces of the pie to determine what we do and how we do it.’ I just feel like, you know, there comes a point in our lives where we either believe in a great God who does great things, and uses sometimes the weak to get it done, or else we don’t believe in that, and we just believe that we get human might, and we gather all the human resources, and we live or die by the human sword.
Thomas Valentine is a researcher for the American Principles Project and a junior at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.