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Former Arkansas governor blames harshness of rhetoric for republicans’ presidential election loss Huckabee: Harsh rhetoric, not underlying message, cost Republicans the White House

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at 10:34 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, at 6:45 a.m.

Conservative commentator and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee blamed Republican Mitt Romney’s loss on the harshness of Republican rhetoric, even as he stoutly defended the party’s underlying message.

Huckabee spoke Thursday at the Kansas Agri Business Expo breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.

Huckabee said he was surprised by the election’s outcome. He said he visited Ohio a week before the election and felt confident that Romney would be elected because of the energy from voters who seemed eager to push President Obama out of office.

The only good thing about Nov. 6, Huckabee said, was that the results were known early enough that he could get some sleep.

Obama’s policies, he said, punish the most productive in the economy and “reward the recklessly irresponsible.”

By that, Huckabee said, he didn’t mean the poor. He said he was raised poor and comes from a poor family. No one chooses to be poor, he said. Huckabee said people are usually poor only temporarily until times get better.

“Somehow that message got lost in this last election,” he said.

“I blame the Republicans for almost presenting the idea that people who are getting any type of assistance certainly must want to be there. And the callousness and the indifference that we communicated with it is a large part, I believe, of the ultimate defeat.”

But he also told the crowd of hundreds at the breakfast that climbing out of poverty isn’t about government programs. It’s about creating a climate for economic prosperity, and that means smaller, less intrusive government – and more self-reliance and hard-working people.

When government expands, he said, it creates more dependency and less incentive to work. He characterized taxation as punishment, rather than as a cost of having a government.

“Our current approach is that if you work, we will punish you for the work that you do,” he said. “That’s what an income tax is. The harder you work the more we will tax you.”

Huckabee – who won the Kansas presidential caucuses in 2008 – opposed the bailouts of Wall Street firms, banks and auto makers during the meltdown, and he still does.

“All these people who were supposed to be more conservative than me were out there wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, it’s terrible, it’s against our principles, but we have to,’ ” Huckabee said.

“No. You never have to do something that you believe is fundamentally wrong.”

Government is simply there to make sure markets and society works, but not to decide winners and losers, Huckabee said.

He advocated a flat income tax or a national sales tax; elimination of inheritance taxes; health savings accounts to encourage patients to weigh medical costs; term limits for Congress; requiring office holders to resign before running for a new office; replacing Congressional pensions with Social Security; and moving more decisions to lower levels of government.

“I’m optimistic about America,” he said. “I’m not optimistic about the government.

“If you ask how you prepare for the next four years, I say practice getting under your tables, the old duck and cover, because incoming is on the way.”

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com.

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