- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WAUKEE, Iowa (AP) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee headlined a conservative forum Tuesday in Iowa, but he dropped few clues about whether he was considering a second run for president, despite having won the state’s coveted leadoff caucuses six years ago.

Huckabee kept his political remarks brief during a speech to a conservative Christian organization at a church in Waukee. Talking to about 600 devout social conservatives, he said Republicans had not lost the last two presidential elections because the party had the wrong message.

“We didn’t present it in a way that made sense to them, that gave them an understanding of what it is like to live as free and unshackled people,” Huckabee said at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual spring event.

But during his 40-minute speech, he never used the word Iowa, nor did he hearken to his come-from-behind 2008 GOP caucus victory. That win didn’t propel him to the Republican nomination, but it enshrined him among Iowa’s vocal and politically potent evangelical conservatives.

Instead, Huckabee - a former Baptist minister - sought to encourage some of the GOP’s staunchest values-voters to do more than complain about the direction of the country.

“America’s not in trouble because of the secularists who defy God. America’s in trouble because those who are the salt have become more like sand,” Huckabee said. “And those who are supposed to be the light have become more like sand.”

Earlier in the day, Huckabee met privately with about a dozen of his former Iowa presidential campaign staff and key supporters. He asked the group what they were hearing about the mood in Iowa, said Susan Geddes, a top Iowa adviser to Huckabee in 2008.

Geddes said she came away from that private meeting believing Huckabee was open to another presidential campaign.

“He’s thinking about it,” Geddes said. “I think he’s more serious than I thought.”

However, Huckabee quickly left Point of Grace Church after his speech, making no time for the news media to talk with him about his future plans.

Half a dozen Republicans weighing 2016 presidential bids have visited Iowa since the last presidential election, and some more than once. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is scheduled to headline the state GOP’s annual spring fundraiser in Cedar Rapids on Friday.

Huckabee has kept a nationally public presence as the host of national television and radio shows. He also made headlines in January, at the Republican National Committee meeting, when he accused Democrats of portraying some women as unable to “control their libido or reproductive system” and as dependent on government-sponsored birth control.

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