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

Huckabee warns GOP could become 'irrelevant'

[cnn-photo-caption image= 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."

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

    For all the libs saying that the republicans are irrelevant,were the democrats irrelevant when they were in the minority in the house and senate,and when Bush was in the white house?
    \You people seem to have short memories.
    People are going to realise pretty quick that Obama is spending the country into bankruptcy,and that democrats have held the majority in congress and the senate for more than 2 years(in other words,the whole time during the economic meltdown!)

    Economic meltdown co-inciding with democrats being in power in both houses,coincidence? i think not!

    May 8, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  2. Emma, San Jose

    Nice try, Republicans, you are using a lot of energy to say to Americans
    you are not going to be what you have been saying you are. Sorry, we have lived the code of the Republican Party so we are well experienced with who you are and what you stand for. We are burned out on it.

    May 8, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  3. Ellie, MD

    Could become? Too late buddy.

    They already are, where have you been Huckabee? Oh yeah, you've been doing the network show circuit! Too-schay....

    May 8, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. Thomas Wier, Portland OR

    "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,"

    Oh you promise?! What an amazing day that would be!

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

    Irrelevancy for today's republican party would be a blessing given its current crop of "conservatives."

    The irony of this article is that Huckabee embodies the very irrelevancy he is talking about.

    May 8, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. John

    When I saw this headline, I thought Huckabee was going to say that the GOP would become irrelevant if we defined ourselves as a party of evangelical white Southerners. Now that would be news.

    The GOP needs to seize the initiative and pursue an innovation platform. It is a big and dangerous world out there and only countries that really understand how to wield geopolitical power and harness the extraordinary power markets will survive. Instead, we spend our time yelling at one another about trivia intended to get the base excited, regardless of what it means to the country. Do we have any grown ups in the party any more?

    I guess we will avoid the fate of the Whigs and settle for the fate of the Know-Nothings.

    May 8, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  7. Dick/NH

    GOP irrelevant ??? Gee, Mike...then they'd be just like YOU!!!

    May 8, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. shs

    So in other words, the only thing left of the GOP now is the social conservatives. That means they are already irrelevant.

    May 8, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  9. SD,Michigan

    Hey Huckster and your ilk, quit saying that only social conservatives are pro-life and pro-family. There are millions of hapilly-married liberals with kids and great moral values, thank you very much.
    It makes me mad whenever they're trying to paint Dems or liberals as Godless, enjoying abortions and divorced...

    May 8, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  10. dittohead using forty names

    If I were going to have a child that looked like this Gomer,guess what?

    May 8, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  11. Darkclouds55

    Huckabee is still right there with them. These comments like "the pro-life and pro-family party" are just indicative of the GOP bases true feelings about everyone who doesn't agree with them on every issue. The Independents and Democrats are NOT anti-life and anti-family! Does the GOP really think that they love their family and freedoms more than everyone else? If you want to get into a big government vs small government debate, the GOP is MUCH more comfortable and ready to curtail our personal freedoms than the Democrats are. What small government means to the GOP is – Don't put any restrictions on how we can make or hide our money!

    May 8, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  12. Polly

    Disagree with the "old men" statement. Many social conservatives are concerned about morals, values, financial security, national security, maintaining a safe environment, and protecting the Constitution of the United States of America. They are women and men- of all ages. It used to be that Americans wanted to pass on family values and morals to their children, so they are now trying to reach a younger generation who are missing out these days because of our declining social standards.

    May 8, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  13. independant in Indiana

    Perhaps we can charge women who have miscarages with involentary manslaughter?

    May 8, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  14. mccain

    just shut up huck, just go preach in your own church, bigot!!!!!

    May 8, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  15. Rich

    Brilliant observation Governor Huckabee. The GOP doesn't get it. That is why the McCain/Palin ticket got trounced in the general Presidential election. They put Sarah Palin on the ticket instead choosing a more "moderate" VP candidate such as Fred Thompson.

    Good luck gaining seats in 2010 taking marching orders from Rush Limbaugh.

    May 8, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  16. Gary

    The GOP is only socially conservative. Just check the National Debt figures and you will see that they spiked between 1980-1992 and yet again from 2000-2008. The Party of Irrelavance expands the rule of government much more than the Dems. In all honesty, I would love to see a truly fiscally conservative party, but that won't happen for awhile. If Obama can fix the economy (and bring back regulation & accountability to the banking system) in his first term, maybe he can be more fiscally conservative in his second term.

    As for Gov. Huckabee, Cheney, and Limbaugh: the more you say "keep social conservatives at the heart of the GOP", the more you will lose elections. At least the likes of Romney and McCain are trying to solve your party's problem.

    May 8, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  17. bob from Oregon

    What do you mean "Could be"? You're so irrelevant you"re superfluous.

    May 8, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  18. Earl

    The GOP coalition of warmongers ("national-security"), moralists ("family-values") and the greedy ("tax cuts") has fractured - and the discussion is how to reassemble it. But it may well be Humpty-Dumpty and can't be put back together again. Doing so would at a minimum require a unifying and charismatic figure - sort of a GOP Obama or another Reagan - who could knit together these three factions who have such disparate interests. A big obstacle is their inherently contradictory philosophy: a small low-tax government with a huge military force able to start wars at will and an intrusive nanny government that can force pregnant women to have babies whether or not they are able and willing to bear them.

    May 8, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  19. liberal gal

    Ok Mike is going to make Rush have a major Cordinary if he finds out his dear party is going to become irrelevant.....
    Hey cheer up then you guys could all return to your Great leader Bush is doing right to give it to Republicans they don't get it!!!!

    May 8, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  20. Patty in the CA mountains

    "COULD BECOME"????? Too late for that warning.....already is

    May 8, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  21. TONY

    The Republicans don't really need to DO anything.

    Just sit back for 8 years and watch the Democrats govern as the majority party in this country.

    That ought to do it.

    May 8, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  22. william gair

    GOP, you will never get me back until you put the social conservatives back in the box we used to keep them in. They ruined the party. Those of us that leftn left in discust and anger.

    May 8, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
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