Possible 2016 GOP presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee said in a speech Thursday that Republicans should fight harder to win women's votes. In particular, Huckabee said his party should stress that it doesn’t believe women are “helpless and hopeless creatures” whose only desire is for government-provided birth control.
The former Arkansas governor added that many of the women he knows are intelligent and educated and capable of doing anything a man can do. Then he delivered a shot at Democrats which is lighting up social media like fireworks on July 4th.
Here’s the full quote: “And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let’s take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than Democrats have made them out to be.”
Many on the left took umbrage at the charge that Democrats tell women they should be dependent on big government because they can’t control their urges.
“It sounds offensive to me, and to women,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney when asked about the remarks, which Huckabee made during a luncheon appearance at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting.
Others grated at the “Uncle Sugar” reference, noting that in the past Huckabee has used that formulation to refer to President Obama. “That’s ‘President Sugar’ to you,” tweeted one respondent.
Republicans, for their part, said Huckabee was just responding in kind to the Democrat’s charge that the GOP wages a “war on women.” The right-leaning National Review noted that a number of mainstream media figures initially mischaracterized Huckabee’s remarks, reporting that Huckabee himself believes women can’t control their libidos.
Mike Huckabee ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and finished second in the delegate count behind Sen. John McCain. He was a favorite of evangelicals because of his combination of a folksy demeanor and conservative positions on abortion and other hot-button social issues.
Since then he’s made a living as a radio and TV talk show host. But he ended his show late last year, and has begun to hint that he may run again in 2016.
In fact, meeting with reporters prior to his Thursday RNC remarks, Huckabee sounded more than ever like he’s going to run.
“The encouragement has been much stronger than I anticipated,” he said, in reference to 2016.
If so, he may have to learn to dial it back. As Slate’s Dave Weigel points out, Huckabee has used the “libido” reference at least once before – during his Fox News show last Sunday, in fact.
“For Democrats to reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control is demeaning to the women that I know who are far more complicated than their libido,” said Huckabee then.
As Weigel notes, that’s a crowd pleaser – for a select audience. If Huckabee really is going to run he may need to sort out the rhetoric he reserves for true believers from what he uses in forums where he’s likely to attract broader attention.
Because if nothing else, he’s created an excuse for Democrats to bring up past instances when he said things about women that some found insulting. For instance, in 2012 Huckabee wrote on his Facebook page that men may be better than women at multi-tasking due to the latter’s hormonal ups-and-downs.
That may not help the GOP in its effort to close its gender gap with Democrats.
As Steve Benen, a producer for the left-leaning Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, tweeted, "Huckabee helps prove one thing: GOP training on how to talk about women really isn't going well."