May 8th, 2009
04:16 PM ET
5 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. The Other Michael in Houston

    Will be irrelevent??? The are! I think the Constitution Party will win more seats than them in 2010.

    May 8, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. Yates

    I happen to be one of those 50 year guys smoking cigars at the country club but also am also Christian & pro-life fiscal and social conservative. I agree if they aleniate the Christians for all the moonbat liberals that leave comments here at CNN the GOP is done. The only thing Obama has brought for me is more work, less income and less going to charity for fear of taxes. I save and shelter more than ever in business and personal income due to Obama's policies.

    May 8, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  3. Jon

    too late. already irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. tom

    Huckabee's basically the American version of a mullah.His religious beliefs will be what he follows and he is a fundamentalist.Just like many of our enemies he is the he is a zealot.The fact that a man of higher education and an eloquent speaker truly believes the earth is 9,000 years old is scary.What might he do to a gay person or person of color. How about a non christian? What relations be with the middle east when your closest ally you blame for the death of Jesus and the other part of the middle east is non believers who need to be converted. These people are non-bending, and archaic much the same as the taliban.

    May 8, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. Think Green

    "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,"

    This seems like a pretty accurate discription of the party currently. During the RNC convention, I saw more old farts wearing bow ties than blacks and latinos combined. And that was before the perceived identity crisis.

    May 8, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. Professor

    Huck's right. I vote Republican only because the Republican Party sometimes supports Biblical Christianity. If the Republican Party abandons sound Biblical principles, then I have no reason to support them.

    A liberal democrat is better than a liberal republican!

    May 8, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Jon

    Jerry..Here's a newsflash for you: Bush took care of ruining this country. O-Dog is trying to pick up the pieces, but with americans crying the way you do, he's definitely got his work cut out for him.

    May 8, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. John in Austin

    Yea, he would know.

    May 8, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  9. Scott - Fort Worth - TX

    I agree with Jon out here. The Republicans should come out STRONG for eliminating or privatization of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Education Assistance, plus all S-Chips spending, unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc. etc.; and returning most or all tax money to the people. The States will be tasked with all those functions.

    This will ensure the Republicans will be completely wiped out and eliminated in the 2010 and 2012 elections. And we'll never have to worry about them screwing over the country and its economy again. Because they won't exist.

    Great idea. I love it.

    May 8, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. Nathan,

    News flash Huck. You guys are already irrelevent. Don't you remember Novemner 2008 and 2006

    May 8, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  11. Helen

    Frankly, I think they are already a group of old men, puffing cigars and sitting at the country club drinking brandy. Even the ones who aren't old are acting like a set of donkeys (asses). They need to put this country first instead of their very large egos. They may not disagree with everything the Democrats do but they need to at least find a middle ground.

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

    To Jon,

    Social programs arent the sole causes of government financial troubles. We need to eye how we spend on the military. We need to make sure our companies stay competitive and we need to generate new jobs and grow. The past 8 years of lifeless reforms is what killed us.

    Now on the other comments, Huckabee is not relevant, most of the people in this country are pro-family. African American, American Hispanics and Asians sharethe family values of Huckabee.

    May 8, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Oakland Tracy

    The GOP "could" become irrelevant? The GOP *is* irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. liberalism.is.a.sickness

    Very true Mr. Huckabee if they become the democrats-LITE party they will be nothing. They need to be the conservative party once again.
    Traditional family values and small unintrucive Federal Government is still a strong selling point to so many people. Go back to your roots we are not liberal-lites!

    May 8, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Boisepoet

    Is Huckabee trying to be a stand-up comic now?
    Doesn't he realize that his party is already on the way to becoming the Whigs? Doubling down on the wingnut base is not the way to change that.

    Of course what do you expect from the man who said (paraphrasing) 'we shouldn't be trying to change the 10 Commandments to fit the Constitution, we should be trying to change the Constitution to fit the 10 Commandments'.

    Talibangelicals...in America they wear suits and even purple ties.

    May 8, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Frank from Texas

    Huckabee (and Cheney and Rush) are basically saying that
    Republicans must be the party without thoughtful dialog on
    divisive topics. If you do not agree with them then you cannot
    be in the party, so many of us that grew up Republican have
    said good bye! If every issue (abortion, gay marriage,
    environmental reform, health care, economic safety net)
    is a litmus test, then very few people will be left.

    May 8, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. Andrew

    He has it backwards. I'm a fiscal moderate. Sometimes, I'm lean more towards the Democrat side on fiscal issues and sometimes, it's the reverse. I can easily see myself voting for a fiscal conservative. However, I will never vote for a social conservative candidate. That's a deal killer for me.

    May 8, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. Patrick

    Jerry, you're comment about Obama turning the U.S. into a third world country is interesting. Do you even know what that term refers to? Do you even know what a second world country is? I think not, because your use of that term is completely incorrect. By definition the United States will never be a third world country; those terms deal with the Cold War and are completely outdated. Please understand the phrases and idioms that you use before you attack our President and display your own ignorance.

    May 8, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  19. Minan59

    The GOP is irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. George W. Bush

    Don't blame me!

    May 8, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. Theory

    Remember, Huckabee's comment about Obama having to duck from gunfire ? What the republicans fail to understand is Credibility, They have none. Wise words from the likes of huckabee is a joke. The republicans do and say so many dirty things and then expect the people to forget what they have done and said. Especially Rush, He is totally outrageous, we are all supposed to run to him for guidance? Really you republican should evaluate your leaders because you guys looks old, white, racist, and EVIL . And I know you are all not like that but, it sure does look that way. And it looks like you don't care .

    May 8, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  22. GM from MN

    "Huckabee says the GOP must not lose social conservatives."

    And this is why the GOP is doomed to fail.

    May 8, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  23. Bob (Illinois)

    "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."

    Well, I hate to break it to you, Mike, but I think the GOP has already reached that point!

    And, by the way, since when are Democrats NOT pro-family.

    May 8, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. David Newport, OR

    I wonder how many Republicans have to say the same thing before the "Party" starts to listen? If only they were even a little bit smarter, it wouldn't have to be so many. Oh Well.

    May 8, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. Allison

    I feel that republicans have isolated themselves BECAUSE of social conservatism. Growing up in the "bible belt" actually pushed me away from the Republican party. Where I am from, Religious Evangelicals and Social conservatives go hand in hand and if you do not believe exactly as they do on religion or politics then you are going to you know where and you are anti american. Maybe if they didnt isolate so many people and didnt cater to the religious extremists they could actually relate to the majority of the population. Or maybe if they stopped TELLING everyone how they are wrong and actually did something PRODUCTIVE then people would trust them as their representatives in government.

    May 8, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
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