Frontrunner Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his onetime rival Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox News, smiling and laughing as they discussed controversial social issues.
Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee invited former Massachusetts Gov. Romney to his Fox News show, “Huckabee,” Saturday to talk about issues that matter to socially conservative voters. The conversation was cordial, a stark contrast to their sharp exchanges during the 2008 campaign when Huckabee was also a candidate.
The two would have found themselves competing with each other once again had Huckabee not opted out of the race. On his Fox News show in May, Huckabee declared he was not in the race. “I don’t expect everyone to understand this, but I’m a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ. And that relationship is far more important to me than any political office.”
On Friday, Huckabee denied a Reuters report saying he was reconsidering his run for president.
“I do not see a path for me, either financially or organizationally,” Huckabee told Neil Cavuto on Fox News. A day later, Huckabee invited Romney onto his show, giving him an opportunity to reach out to socially conservative voters.
“There’s still concerns that some of the social conservatives have,” Huckabee told Romney. “Would you be a pro-life president and what would that mean for you? How would you give some assurance that that’s not something they have to worry about if Mitt Romney is president?”
Romney said he was for conservative Supreme Court justices and said he was pro-life. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in the country agreed with you and me that life begins [at] conception and that there’s a sanctity of life that’s part of a civilized society and that we’re all going to agree there should not be legal abortion in the nation? That’d be great,” Romney said.
“But I don’t think that’s where we are right now,” he added. “I do think where the majority of the American people would go is [to] say let the states make the decisions.”
Defending his Massachusetts health care plan, Romney said he would have supported an amendment to the state constitution so abortion was not subsidized.
Romney also told Huckabee that he could see a problem with his previous campaign. “Well you know, someone said to me, at the end of that campaign, ‘Write down in one word what Barack Obama stood for – change or hope,’” he said. “How about Hillary Clinton? Can’t come up with anything. How about Mitt Romney? Same thing. … I talked about a lot of issues but it wasn’t clear what I stood for.”
In this race, Romney added, “I wanted to make sure … win or lose … people know I’m the guy to put Americans back to work.” He also said what matters most to him this time is to defeat President Obama, and therefore he is not too concerned about more candidates joining the fray.
While Huckabee has reiterated he is not running for president, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to jump in to the race this week. Romney said he didn’t “begrudge” that.
“Come on in, let us take a look at you, put you under the microscope and see who has the best shot of replacing President Obama and getting the country on the right track again,” Romney said.
He told Huckabee, “If you were in it, it would be a different race and you probably don’t think about that a lot. But I am sure a lot of people say, ‘Why isn’t Mike in? That’d be terrific.’ So, they’re looking at all the field and I think in the final week or two people will settle down and make their final decision.”
Huckabee acknowledged his interview with Romney was out of ordinary. “You know, a lot of people are watching this interview because they really were wondering, would you and I would be able to sit in the same room and be civil to each other?” he said jokingly. “I mean, it was exactly four years ago we were kinda going through it. I think we’ve proven that people can be civil.”
The apparent Huckabee-Romney camaraderie is perhaps not good news for the other frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney’s rival in the race. Perry has yet to be invited on the Huckabee show.