DAVENPORT – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee defended his methodical approach to deciding whether to launch a 2012 presidential bid as he set out on a two-day book-signing tour of Iowa on Sunday.
Greeted by a long line of people at the Sam’s Club on Elmore Avenue in Davenport, Huckabee whipped through scores of books as people came to shake his hand, trade quick conversations and, at times, encourage the Fox News analyst to leap into the 2012 campaign.
“You’ve got to run,” Juanita Castens, of Silvis, Ill., told Huckabee.
“Do I?” he replied with a grin.
“Maybe I’ll just wait and let you run for president, and I’ll vote for you,” he later told 15-year-old Paige Dougherty, of Kewanee, Ill., who went to the book-signing with her dad, Rich.
Huckabee’s trip to the state to promote his book, “A Simple Government,” is part of a tour of several states. The Sunday stops also included Dubuque and Waterloo. He’ll be in West Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City today.
His visit comes amid speculation about whether the winner of the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa will take the plunge again.
In recent days, Huckabee has pushed back against a narrative in some national media stories that he’s likely not to run.
In a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Sam’s Club, Huckabee made the argument his approach is warranted, even necessary, because of a later start to the caucuses, a lengthier primary season and a more proportionate delegate-selection process.
“The candidate who goes out too early is going to have to stay on his feet an awful long time. It’s the difference between a boxer going 15 rounds and going eight. If you can condense it down to eight, you might have the juice to stay in it. If you have to go 15, you’d better have enough behind you to last that long,” he said.
Huckabee said he’s evaluating potential financial commitments, including those that weren’t there for him four years ago.
“I’m still carefully assessing are those genuine commitments. And if so, how serious, how deep, and can I count on them?” he said.
He also suggested his pace fits the rhythms of Iowa caucus-goers, as well as the calendar, even though the Republican Party of Iowa’s straw poll is less than six months away.
“My experience is Iowans take their time. They don’t just rush out and compulsively buy in on a candidate the first week he comes to town,” Huckabee said. “It doesn’t work like that.”
He recalled he didn’t commit to taking part in the 2007 straw poll until a month before it occurred.
Some other potential 2012 candidates, while not formally committing to bids either, have taken some of the more traditional steps in Iowa, such as hiring staff and meeting with activists.
“I’m talking to some folks. It may not be as obvious,” Huckabee insisted.
In fact, during Sunday’s visit, he met for a time with about a half dozen people on his campaign bus, including Luana Stoltenberg, an influential social conservative in the Quad-Cities. She said later they didn’t talk about a presidential campaign but instead she urged him to talk on his Fox show about a move in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
“It’s a hot topic,” she said.
Betty Schofield, of Bettendorf, was in line waiting with her husband, Joe, before Huckabee arrived. They backed him in 2008.
“He’s honest. He tells it like it is,” she said.
- By Ed Tibbetts, Quad-City Times