[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/26/art.getty.huckabee.jpg caption="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."