May 8th, 2009
04:16 PM ET
4 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. Grace Needed

    Good for Governor Huckabee! If there is to be face for the Conservative Movement in the Republican Party, it should be yours. You are sincere, genuine and intelligent with loads of experience. Plus, you had it right when you predicted in the last campaign at a debate that the Republicans can't just negate others ideas or they will lose. You said they would have to come up with good ideas of their own for people to get behind and you were absolutely right. The Republicans NEVER did come up with good ideas and stayed with negating others' ideas and ended up with rallies bashing everybody and being critical of everything, with no alternative ideas to resolve any of the problems the country is facing. They still aren't offering an options, other than ones that have already failed miserably.

    May 8, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. just me

    "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."

    Isn't that what the party already consists of?

    May 8, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Brian from California

    GOP can become irrelevany??? Guess what Mr. Huckabee, GOP IS ALREADY IRRELEVANT...hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhah

    May 8, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. Mr. Magoo

    Who are all these AM-Talk listening fools who insist Obama is turning things bad now? How could things possibly get any worse than Georgy boys screw-ups?
    And why is being progressive or an altruist so evil to these old men? Are they that mired in their own political process they can't remember their 'values'?
    How come no one can seem to decode the paradox of the 'limited government' argument, coupled with this need to regulate 'opposite marriage', censor the internet and the airwaves, and expand the power of the executive to unprecedented territory?

    And how does Romney honestly believe the feces he spews? Did he seem to forget his father's legacy? Or did he just happen to forget how rich he was? Last I checked, the GOP is the monarchy, the GOP are no better than King George himself, snubbing their noses at that which never furthered their own interests.

    May 8, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  5. Michael in Hawai'i

    Repubs lose election after election because the American electorate views conservative governance and ideals as dismal failures – too freakishly Right Wing. The response from the incredible shrinking Republican Party? They want to move to the Right to placate the religious extremists who currently are their base. Go figure.

    May 8, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. Jean

    To little to late! With the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Shawn Hannity, & Glen Beck speaking for the part y, what little credibiltiy they had is gone. Then you have Governors like Rick Perry of Texas talking about session, (God help me I live in Texas, I may have to move) the party of NO is a joke. Additionally, the party of NO has the most despised man in America speaking after 8 years of being in an "undisclosed location". How many ways can this party self distruct?

    May 8, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Jake

    too late, buddy!

    May 8, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. Gene

    Yep.. the Repubs are screwed... go moderate and lose your most fanatical base.. don't go moderate and lose the majority of Americans..

    It's a no win for the future Whigs. :)

    May 8, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  9. lovable liberal

    "The key is true fiscal conservatism. Start a process to get rid of all the unconstitutional spending like social security, medicare, education, etc. and this country can get back on track."

    This is HILARIOUSLY revealing. All of those programs are popular, and this wingnut plan is a *perfect* way to end the Republican Party. That effect is something I can applaud.

    May 8, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  10. Denise

    Could become irrelevant? I thought they were, already!

    May 8, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  11. ssanbra

    We need two strong parties in which anyone can feel at home. As an African Ameircan, I feel about at home in the Republican party as a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. It's unfortunatant since one of my heros, Abraham Lincoln, was a Republican.

    May 8, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. Jake

    What the super conservatives don't get is that THEY are the reason for the GOPs problems. If they want to push their extreme agenda they should form their own party. Then they'll fully understand what "irrelevant" means.

    May 8, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. Paul from America

    The Republicans need to put down the bible, get there hands out of marrage and abortion. I think the US need some of their views to keep balance in governmen, but the for mentioned issues will make America turn there back on them more and more.

    May 8, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. ssanbra

    Was the reason Lamebaugh did not support Barack Obama, his race(hint, hint)

    May 8, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  15. Hannah Stevens

    "Start a process to get rid of all the unconstitutional spending like social security, medicare, education, etc. and this country can get back on track. We could cut out 75% of federal taxes if our lawmakers would simply follow the constitution."

    Well, that's where bush and cheney were headed. cut all social programs and ramp up on "defense" spending and no bid contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what are the elderly going to do when their pensions are gone and they have no money? How are the children, the future of our country going to get educated, the private sector and religious groups that can discriminate and where costs will prohibit all those but the rich from being educated? And as far as Medicare is concerned, it is fine for congress to have single pay government run health care, but the elderly can just die. And maybe we should ot have roads, and bridges and air terminals and air traffic control, FDA, FEMA, SEC, FBI and all of the agencies that protect our citizens? Let's go back to the stone age where everyone is for himself. Yeah, that's a good idea. NOT!

    May 8, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  16. Jane

    The GOP is irrelevant

    May 8, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  17. Benjamin

    Social conservatism is part of the reason the party already HAS become irrelevant - you've alienated most of the country through such radicalism!

    May 8, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Joe

    God, they really don't get it do they? COULD be irrelevant? If they follow his and Cheney's advice, they will be more irrelevant than they already are, and that's pretty bad.

    May 8, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. Pragmatic

    "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.,,"

    ************** and that is about 20% of the American public ? Just how many energetic and loyal social conservatives are there and how many are under the age of 65? Go ahead and keep them, alienate the rest of the the voters and remain a small, regional party, This is from a man who named the first three pheasants he shot after his primary challengers!

    May 8, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  20. RRR

    Mike Huckabee = CAPTAIN OBVIOUS!

    May 8, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. Melissa

    Could become irrelevant? They already ARE irrelevant no matter how much their fundamentalist Christian followers scream otherwise.

    May 8, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  22. Rickymo

    They already are...

    May 8, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. Mike in MN

    I don't see a real battle in the Republican party over moderate vs conservative social issues.
    Spectre was shoved out for a vote on the big spending stimulus bill, not his social moderate values.
    If you look at the votes in Congress, the Republican party is united in voting against the Obama out of control spending policies. Moderate and conservative Republicans in congress appear to be very united.
    The Democrats are trying to create a rift in the Republican party between the moderates and conservatives. This is because they can see the Republican party has once again found its conservative voice on limited goverment, low taxes, personal rights and resposniblity, and fiscal resposniblity. Polls show Americans do not want big government and higer taxes and are very concerned about the Obama out of control spending and deficits. There are no Republican votes supporting this out of control spending, just Democrats.
    The Republicans will run on their conservative roots values again in 2010 and 2012. This will be a very stark contrast with the Democrats spend crazy liberal policies and will hit the Democrats where they are weakest. The Democrats are desperate for the Republican party to move to the left. They need to get the Republican moderates to vote with them and to make the Republican party to be more moderate to give them cover with the voters.
    In 2010 and 2012 voters will not care much about the Republican conservative social values. The number one issue will be the economy, taxes and the deficits. And the conservative Republican positions on these issues will be more attractive than the liberal Democrats.

    May 8, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  24. John, Chicago

    To the knuckleheads that say conservatism is the only thing that works
    Maybe it works for you, I don't want a bunch of Morons telling me what I can and can't do. Mike Huckleberry Hound your party is already irrelevant keep going right and right out of any relevancy bye bye.

    May 8, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  25. Maurice from Ontario

    Drum major or not, the music remains the same right now: a dirge!

    May 8, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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