May 8th, 2009
04:16 PM ET
9 years ago

Huckabee warns GOP could become 'irrelevant'

Huckabee says the GOP must not lose social conservatives.

Huckabee says the GOP must not lose social conservatives.

(CNN) - Days after national Republicans launched a new campaign to broaden the party's outreach, former upstart presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says the GOP is at risk of becoming "irrelevant as the Whigs."

In an interview with the California newspaper The Visalia Times-Delta, Huckabee said the GOP would only further decline in influence should it alienate social conservatives - largely considered the most energetic and loyal faction of the party.

"Throw the social conservatives the pro-life, pro-family people overboard and the Republican party will be as irrelevant as the Whigs," he said in reference to the American political party that largely disbanded in the mid 1800s.

"They'll basically be a party of gray-haired old men sitting around the country club puffing cigars, sipping brandy and wondering whatever happened to the country. That will be the end of the party," he said in the interview published Thursday.

Huckabee's comments come the same day former Vice President Dick Cheney warned his party's leaders not to moderate their views as they launch an effort to regain control in the nation's Capitol.

"The idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy," Cheney also said. "I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most of us aren’t," he told conservative talk-radio host Scott Hennen.

The comments come after longtime Republican Sen. Arlen Specter formally left the GOP, igniting a fierce debate among Republicans over what type of candidates the party should embrace going forward.

On Saturday, three prominent GOP leaders - Rep. Eric Cantor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney - kicked off a campaign to reshape their party's image, gathering at a restaurant in northern Virginia for the first of a series of town hall meetings. The goal of the initiative, called the National Council for a New America, is to connect Republican leaders with voters across the country to help get the party's electoral fortunes back on track.

But in the interview Thursday, Huckabee said it's too early for the GOP to look for a leader.

"I'm frustrated with all these people who are jockeying for the position to be the 'leader,'" he said. "It's almost like we're worried about who's going to be the drum major and we don't have a piece of music yet."

Filed under: Mike Huckabee
soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. Bobby

    Could become?

    May 8, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  2. Rushhole: A neo-con that apologizes so frequently and has been butt-snorkeling Rush they have been completely enveloped by the vast void!



    May 8, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. richie

    Because they are not screeming they are irrelevant....

    May 8, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  4. Laura

    Excuse Me Mr. Huckabee,

    You ARE irrelevant and so is your party. Pardon me while I put some spicy mustard on my cheeseburger.

    May 8, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. chuck

    He is correct about the Republicans being irrelevant, but he is wrong in his reasoning. If the GOP keeps pandering to the “Social Conservatives” I.E. southern white racists, his very solution will drive the party into extinction.

    We can only hope he succeeds.

    May 8, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. jm for sc

    Too late for the warning Huckabee; they already are.

    May 8, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. kgeukes

    You mean they aren't already?? LOL

    May 8, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Minnesotan

    I feel bad for the GOP. They risk a further exodus to the Dem's if they keep moving towards these Socially conservative issues yet risk alienating the social conservatives if they don't do just that. Huh, so we'll finally have a 3 party system with the Dem's controlling mostly everything.

    All I have to say is that if the GOP does move further to the right then they will never hold significant influence in the US again.

    May 8, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Bgail

    Wonder if Limbaugh will suggest that Huckabee too leave the republican party and become a democrat!!

    May 8, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Craig- Easton, PA

    Mike, it's the social conservatives that are throwing us moderates out of the party, not the other way around. If all you want is social conservatives, then you will become Whigs.

    May 8, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Dan

    I hope republicans listen carefully to the latest rant of Huckabee's. Please keep emphasizing outdated, discredited social issues that will repel everybody but the most extreme faction of the GOP. That way the party will become pure and shrink to the point of irrelevancy – brilliant!

    May 8, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. Obama!!!

    haha who knew Huckabee would actually say something so intelligent?? I didnt really care for his strict ways in Arkansas but he is right on the money there!

    May 8, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Huckabee is absolutely right! The Republican party has become a caricature of itself. It's old white men sitting in a wood paneled room drinking brandy and smoking cigars while cursing the progress made in this country against the same attitudes that kept the party going for so long. It's not surprising that Cheney wants nothing to change......just look at him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 8, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Eileen

    "could become" irrelevant?

    It appears to me that they already are.

    I don't think Huckabee is the one to show them the way home.

    Social conservatives are about all they have left – they need to expand their base, not restrict it as they have already done.

    May 8, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  15. Aria

    too late!

    May 8, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  16. Bill

    Well, it is currently the party of gun toting, Bible thumping illiterates, so the grey-haired old men at the country club would be quite a step up.

    May 8, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Linda from Minnesota

    The GOP is already irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. tigerakabj

    1. Pro-life? You mean anti-abortion. You can't simultaneously say less government, then say, "Oh, by the way, we are going to tell you what your wife can and can't do with her body." Huckabee and like-minds only care for the baby before it's born. After that, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

    2. Social conservatives? People are losing their jobs, their healthcare, their homes, all of which tear at the family structure. Plus, no one cares who's marrying who when these things are occurring. Is only talking about abortion going to solve the pressing problems of the country?

    The thing is Mike, the GOP has long talked a loud game about "We're the moral party of God," then turned around and be caught in bathrooms, stripclubs, in another person's bedroom, baby out of wedlock, etc. Just ask John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Bob Barr, Sarah Palin

    Huckabee, talking about these social issues isn't going the GOP anywhere anymore. Everybody now sees it as the party of hypocrites and unworthy of relevance, hence it's 35% to 20% in party identification. If you want to rant about social issues Mike, stay in church (even there that's insufficient).

    May 8, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. Andrew

    Fine. Alienate the moderates, the members of the party who are fiscal conservatives and advocates of limited government but who do not subscribe to the Christian Right social agenda (is this group limited to old men at the country club sipping brandy?). Keep on keeping on with the current trajectory and the party will become a strictly regional one with narrow appeal to any who are not white, Southern, and evangelical Christian. Talk about irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Reg


    Circa 1965 til now only the UK has the decency to not allow
    right-wing nutz into their Country posioning the public
    with their autistic blurr of the marriage of Church n State
    just to name one thing!

    Fix that first and you may have a chance to get back
    in the game!

    May 8, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. TjayeInLA

    I think he has that totally backwards. Keep it up HIS way and they will become irrelevant like the Whigs. Right now, they are just irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. The Death of America by Obama

    He's right. You fools had better listen.

    May 8, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. David in Dallas

    What an idiot. Doesn't he understand that the main reason so many have turned against the Republican party is because of their insistance in imposing their sect of evangelical dogma on everyone else. I've never been a Republican, but at least I had respect for the traditional Republicans who believed that government should stay out of the lives of individuals and that religion was a matter of personal privacy.

    May 8, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Tulsa

    What makes me and a LOT of moderates from both parties angry is the mentality that if you don't accept the extreme right agenda, you are anti-life and anti-family. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
    When will the Republican party understand that the overwhelming majority of America is pro-life and pro family. However, we think that being pro-life does not end at birth, it starts there and we believe more in deeds than in empty WORDS as far as family goes.
    Keep on with your purging Republicans, more and more people are leaving you. I doubt you will garner 18% before long. Then you WILL be irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. Squigman

    To me, or any other person with a brain they already are.

    May 8, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
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