ABC News’ Bret Hovell and Kevin Chupka Report: Two presidential candidates, vying for the nomination of the same party, shared a battleground-state stage Thursday not as rivals, but as friends and colleagues, leaving behind the personal attacks and snappy one-liners that have characterized much of this cycle’s race for the White House.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Arizona Senator John McCain came together in Sioux City, IA, to discuss issues of healthcare and social security at a forum sponsored by the AARP.
Absent from the conversation were the other six candidates for the Republican nomination, all of whom turned down the AARP’s invitation. Huckabee and McCain were scheduled to take thirty-five minutes each to discuss their views and answer questions from the audience, but McCain proposed the idea of sharing the stage together, which Huckabee accepted.
“Frankly I regret that the other candidates for president of the United States in the Republican Party are not here tonight,” McCain said.
Added Huckabee, “Senator I don’t know about you, but I think there’s enough for people to choose from, just the two of us, let’s just keep it this way.”
The atmosphere throughout was convivial. Huckabee, during his opening remarks said that the two would engage in a thoughtful discussion, and not resort to sucker punches.
“I said that because I want to make sure he knows not to sucker punch me tonight,” joked the governor.
The candidates found mostly common ground on the main issues of the evening. Both expressed a desire to incentivize fitness and wellness as a way to lower healthcare costs, and to encourage doctors and insurers to focus on prevention rather than critical care. Both saw the impending bankruptcy of the Medicare and Social Security systems as urgent challenges requiring bipartisan solutions.
But it was the civil nature of the discussions that stood out.
“Clearly we’re rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, but that doesn’t in any way mean we’re enemies,” Huckabee said, speaking to reporters after the forum.
It was so friendly, the question had to be asked: Would these two men make a good Republican ticket?
“I’d be happy to have Senator McCain as my Vice President!” Huckabee quipped.
“I knew you’d say that,” McCain followed up with laughter. “I knew he’d get that line in before me!”