DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) – Mike Huckabee put his main street economic populism to a Wall Street test Friday in a speech before the Detroit Economic Club.
He said there are clear indicators the American economy is growing, but urged the audience to look at the "micro economy" and said "instead of talking to the people at the head table, talk to people in the kitchen."
"If you talk to the people driving the cabs instead of riding in them, you might get a different picture of what's happening in this country," he said, drawing scattered, polite applause.
Huckabee echoed but challenged the campaign mantra of John Edwards' 2004 presidential bid: "I don’t believe this idea we can have two Americas. We are one America."
Michigan's economic woes, he said, can be alleviated with more job training programs, less government regulation, and by putting America and other emerging global economies on "a level playing field," though he offered few specifics on how to meet that goal.
"There was a time in this nation's history when Michigan saved America," Huckabee said, describing the state's historically formidable manufacturing base. "And now it may be time for America to help save Michigan."
He also touted the so-called Fair Tax, a plan designed to tax consumption that has drawn strong grassroots support nationwide but is considered by unlikely to pass in Washington.
The appearance in Detroit follows a Republican debate in South Carolina Thursday that was dominated by talk of taxes and job loss. Huckabee was attacked by Fred Thompson, who accused the former Arkansas governor of wanting to institute "liberal economic policies" if elected.
Still, Huckabee's rhetorical swirls about working class and middle class voters appear to be resonating in Michigan given the deep economic anxiety in the state, which boasts an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent according to the most recent government data. The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent.
Romney is a Michigan native and son of a former Governor, while McCain won the state's primary in 2000 and has netted the endorsement of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.
Huckabee may be far from South Carolina for two days, but he isn't giving up on his electoral bread and butter. Tonight Huckabee will travel west to Grand Rapids, home to a good chunk of the state's evangelical population, where he will hold a pastors breakfast on Saturday morning.
– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby