Mike Huckabee is usually a pretty effective speaker. He’s folksy and cogent and smiles a lot, and that can soften the impact of his often-conservative social issue positions. But he sure created a stir on Thursday with his speech at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee. Democrats are mad at him for his remarks about their party and women. And that’s not all – some tea party Republicans aren’t too pleased with what Mr. Huckabee said about them, too.
On the left it’s all about “libido." As we noted Thursday, Huckabee at one point said the GOP should fight harder for women’s votes. The party shouldn’t just sit back and take Democratic charges that Republicans wage a “war on women," the former Arkansas governor told the RNC crowd.
Then he said this: “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, so be it."
It’s clear that Huckabee is trying to impute these retrograde beliefs to Democrats. But beyond that, his message was a bit muddied. And the whole subject is just bad news for the GOP, note Washington Post political experts Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan.
The Democrats are much better at controlling their message in regard to access to birth control, and on the issue of federal contraception mandates, there is lots of enthusiasm for that on the Democratic side.
“The contraception issue is, quite frankly, not the GOP’s friend,” write Mr. Blake and Mr. Sullivan.
But much of the umbrage on this is coming from people who would never vote for Huckabee anyway, if he runs for president in 2016. In that context, it was Huckabee’s less-noticed remark about GOP intramural warfare that might damage his chance of winning the Republican nomination.
In his speech, Huck talked about how he wanted conservatives to stop calling more moderate Republicans RINOs – “Republicans in name only."
“Let’s stop calling each other somehow less Republican than someone else,” he said.
Then Huckabee mentioned that he would be going to Auschwitz next week and that the horror of the Holocaust began with the “devaluation of people."
How could an educated nation like Germany end up doing something so horrible?
“You realize that the only way you can end up there is when you start with the idea that people just aren’t as valuable as you are,” said Huckabee, linking the RINO issue with fascist atrocities in World War II.
Huckabee is getting beat up unfairly about the “libido” remark, wrote Mr. Erickson in the piece. But if somebody wants to, say, defeat Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in his Kentucky primary, that doesn’t make them a Nazi, he added.
“I hope he seriously reconsiders these remarks in his disagreements with conservatives. This is really uncalled for.... It makes one serious about reforming the size and scope of Washington power,” Erickson wrote.
Prior to his RNC speech, Huckabee indicated to reporters that he’s getting lots of positive signs about a presidential race and that he’s mulling it over. In some ways, the “libido” flap might help him with primary voters eager for a candidate to challenge Democrats on all fronts. But angering the tea party wing of the party might not be a good thing there. Huckabee’s past appeal in the party has partly been due to his ability to straddle the line between insurgent and establishment Republicans, and he surely does not want to attract the label "RINO" to himself.