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. gail

    What's wrong with the republicans is the hate they spew, their attitude that their way is the only right way, the fact that they would support a vice presidential candidate such as Palin to run with the very old McCain, they can't come up with better ideas than the democrates and they didn't pay attention to what was going on with our country for the last eight years!

    May 8, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  2. MBFLA

    Sorry, but it's much too late to talk about becoming irrelevant. And you who talk about fiscal conservatism forgot about the previous 8 year Republican disaster! What a joke of manic borrow and spending for wasteful wars! The rich got richer and the rest of us suffered. Heck of a deal, America. And you guys want to cut Medicare and social security? How many elderly would be homeless? What an example of compassion! NOT! And let's continue to cut education? Great idea so the rest of the world can surpass us? Please!

    May 8, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. anthony

    The GOP, in its present form, is irrelevant. They just don't know it yet.

    However, since they are irrelevant, they really don't need to know.

    May 8, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. Chris in Va.

    "BECOME irrelevant"!?!?!?! Hackabee sure is missing the boat on this one!

    May 8, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Tim in NC


    the idea is, then, that you keep all the christian concervatives and pro-gun people in the party and throw everyone else to the democrats...

    THATS how you make a party "irrelevant"- exclusivity.

    May 8, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. Mark C.

    Oh Huckleberry. It's "the social conservatives the pro-life, pro-family people" (read: arrogant theocratic bigots) that MADE the party irrelevant.

    I would love to see some fiscal checks and balances occur in government, but they have to stop trying to lump that in with taking away my basic rights as a person in the name of their stunted ideas of "religion" and their attempts to turn us into a dark-ages theocracy.

    May 8, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Mia

    The GOP will only realize they are irrelevant...after they already are. And they will still be reminiscing about Reagan.

    May 8, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Tulsa

    @The Death of America by Obama May 8th, 2009 4:31 pm ET
    He's right. You fools had better listen.
    Yeah, right.... let's see, who has the 67% approval rating? Who can't get 20% of the nation to say they belong to their party? Who is the fool who writes under the handle of Death of America?

    foolish Republicans.

    May 8, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. Richard-Arkansas

    A party that uses hatred as its banner to create wedge issue is really turning off a lot of the population. If it wasn't for the southerners who feel that Republicans can bring back slavery while forcing their religion down everyone's throat, the Republican party would already be the Whig party.

    Your big tent under Ray-gun is now a two-person pup tent (I started to say two-man tent but I know how that would create all sorts of issues).

    May 8, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. GOP = 21st century dodo

    "Traditional family values and small unintrusive Federal Government is still a strong selling point to so many people."

    Too bad the GOP offers neither. They may talk about "family values and small unintrusive [sic] Federal Government" but then they go out and molest pages, get caught with hookers, have affairs, eavesdrop on Americans, start nation building in Iraq, and keep trying to tell women what to do with their bodies.

    To be fair, though, Dems are also just as horny.

    May 8, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. CF

    Democrats = Equal rights and respect for everyone even if they have differing faiths, beliefs and opinions.
    Republicans = Equal rights and respect for everyone who thinks, acts and believes only exactly as we do, and to hell with the evil that is everyone else.

    May 8, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Too late–the GOP is already irrelevant, in large measure due to the efforts of bible-thumping neo-cons like Huckabee who seem to want to append the christian bible to the Constitution.

    May 8, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. Bud Burgoon-Clark

    wealthy: check
    old men: check
    cigars: check
    brandy: check
    white: check
    racist: check
    homophobic: check
    misogynist: check
    xenophobia: check
    downright mean: check
    bald-faced liars: check
    criminals: check
    irrelevant: check and double check

    It's HIGHLY unlikely that the American people will trust Rushthglicriminals (sic) with the reins of government for years to come, IF EVER!

    May 8, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. WhoCares?

    Just please keep following Cheney's advice and lessons GOP..


    May 8, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Bud Burgoon-Clark

    RushTHUGlicriminals, obviously ... my bad! (g)

    May 8, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. obamamama

    Then I guess the party's over..........

    May 8, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Mark C.

    "Traditional family values and small unintrucive Federal Government"

    Ahem... First off, the words is "non-intrusive". Secondly, if the government is supposed to be "non-intrusive"... why would you suggest it should legislate "family values"?

    May 8, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. Larry from RI

    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.

    Because they have chased all the moderates out and they are the only ones left – ensuring the decline of the GOP into irrelevancy for decades!

    Heck of a job – you betcha!

    May 8, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. natasha in tally

    Too late Mike!!!!!!!!!!

    May 8, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. bcb

    I'm a liberal, but I like Mike Huckabee. Maybe he's right, but those social conservatives are frightening lots of Americans out of the GOP. Who knows what will happen with these guys? I'm glad I'm a Democrat.

    May 8, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. ronvan

    The simple fact that the Republican party accepts & condones "Limburger" as their de facto leader, and NO ONE has denied it, is why they will continue to loose.

    May 8, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Scott B

    More "Party Purity". Maybe the social conservatives (who want to tell us what we can and cannot do) and the government-is-bad conservatives (who want the government to go away) will tear the party in two, each with their own litmus test for membership. The fact is the strong majority of Americans are socially tolerant and fiscally conservative.

    May 8, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  23. Henry Miller, Cary, NC


    Real conservatism, the kind that actually stays out of your wallet and private life won't become irrelevant. Unfortunately, what Huckabee and the rest of the neo-con crowd have been preaching for a decade isn't real conservatism. It actually comes awfully close to a religious fascism.

    May 8, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. Carolyn

    So...let me get this straight. Somehow there was a Republican Party before the Religious Right, back in the days of Goldwater, which stood for a smaller government and states' rights. Now we have a GOP that supports the violation of civil liberties, pushes intrusive and religiously-motivated laws into our lives, and calls for interventionist foreign policy...all "big government" kinds of policies. Yet somehow those that think we should return to a small government that minds its own business are breaking from the "core values" of the party and diluting whatever great difference the GOP was supposed to represent. Makes tons of sense to me.

    May 8, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. kayla

    IRRELEVANt? thats an understatement. mr. huckabee.

    May 8, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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