And when he runs, it will be as a Republican who wants to ban the epithet “RINO,” the popular TV and radio commentator said.
“Republican in Name Only” is the term of non-endearment favored by many of his fellow Republicans on the right.
Mr. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, ran a surprisingly strong, though underfinanced, presidential-nomination campaign in 2008. Though traveling mostly in coach class on commercial airliners, he managed to win the Iowa caucuses. By the time the Republican National Convention convened, he had finished second in total delegate count and third in total GOP popular vote and number of states won. When it was all over, he trailed only John McCain and Mitt Romney.
On Thursday, he agreed that in a second go at the nomination, he will need more than the help of a billionaire such as Sheldon Adelson, the Nevada casino owner who gave lavishly to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign, which nonetheless ultimately proved to be underfinanced, too.
Huckabee supporters, who generally simply refer to him affectionately as “Huck,” say he is gathering substantial financial support around the country — enough for a second go at becoming the apple of his party’s eye.
“It’s way too early to know whether that’s possible,” Mr. Huckabee said in the course of the interview, which followed a speech to more than 100 Republican National Committee members and guests at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington.
In that well-received talk to RNC members — younger and more socially conservative than ever before — Mr. Huckabee said he doesn’t like calling other Republicans “RINOs” because someone who agrees with him on 80 percent or even 70 percent of the issues and policies under debate is far more of a genuine Republican when it comes to philosophy and principles than the best Democrat.
Many religious and social conservatives in the GOP agree with the former governor that appearing to harp on any issues other than jobs, growth and opportunity is not a good idea if success at the polls — rather than self-satisfaction — is the goal.
RNC members lauded the Huckabee speech, saying the former Arkansas governor sounded like a social conservative without sounding like an “in-your-face” finger-wagger.
Mr. Huckabee even went out of his way to say relatively kind things about Democrats, averring they are not wrong on all issues all the time — just “most of the time.”
What some social conservatives at his luncheon speech found most remarkable was Mr. Huckabee’s leaving out of his partisan, but mostly gentle, pitch any mention of same-sex marriage — a hot button for evangelical and some Catholic audiences.
And when it came to abortion, he confined his remarks to praise for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ decision to delay the Wednesday opening of the four-day RNC meeting by a few hours so that Mr. Priebus and about 50 other state GOP chairmen and elected committeemen and women could attend the March for Life on the Mall.
“It is important to note that he didn’t mention same-sex marriage or abortion except to praise Reince, and that instead he did focus on individual empowerment, on the inherent worth of every individual,” said Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call. “Huck said in his speech, ‘We as a party are fighting poverty and despair.’”
A Republican who has offered support in the past to former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and to his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, noted the skillful balancing Mr. Huckabee performed in addressing the RNC.