WASHINGTON, May 15, 2011 -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-ARK.: Only when I was alone, in quiet
and reflective moments did I have not only clarity but an inexplicable
inner peace, a peace that exceeds human understanding. All of the
factors say, go. But my heart says no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mike Huckabee announcing that he will sit out 2012, and
there's no shortage of Republicans clamoring for his endorsement now.
Here with me to make sense of it all, ABC's George Will, Cokie Roberts
and political director, Amy Walter.
So let's start, George. The fact that he's out, what does that say
now about the Republican field?
GEORGE WILL, ABC NEWS: He was a potential first-tier candidate for
the following reason. In every contested Republican nomination scramble
since 1980, candidate A has won Iowa, candidate B has won New Hampshire,
and either A or B has won South Carolina and the nomination. He won
Iowa last time. He is ahead in the polls in South Carolina. In 2008,
he won more convention delegates than Romney did. So this does open the
AMANPOUR: And how does it change it? I mean, it opens it, but is
there a gaping hole now?
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: No, because the people who are right there
are ready to fill the hole. Michele Bachmann is there ready to fill the
hole. Newt Gingrich to some extent is there ready to fill it. I mean,
the hole is the evangelical Christians who show up in huge numbers. 60
percent of the Iowa caucuses. And now where do they go? That's the
AMANPOUR: Where do they go? Michele Bachmann?
AMY WALTER, ABC NEWS: Maybe. Look, I think you have a whole lot of
people who minutes after actually he dropped out, the press releases--
WALTER: That's true, the press releases started to go out. You
know who was one of the first people to send out a thank-you for all
that you've done? Donald Trump. Which he is actually going to South
Carolina this week. He will be with Nikki Haley actually at a Tea Party
So, look, Mike Huckabee's problem, though, has been that since 2008,
a lot has happened. First of all, his record has gotten a little more
scrutiny. And even for Tea Party conservatives, the ones who are real
fiscal conservatives, his record in Arkansas does not really fit. He's
not a small-government Republican. And then finally the money.
ROBERTS: Huckabee from a poor state.
WALTER: There you go. That's right. And that was not necessarily
going to play well in a primary.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk about Mitt Romney. He gave a big speech on
health care this week. He's having to run away from that program for
obvious reasons. Nobody likes at least in the Republicans, Obama's
health care. Many people expected him to apologize. Let me just play
what he did say in this speech and then we'll discuss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: A lot of the pundits around the nation are saying that I
should just stand up and say, this whole thing was a mistake, that it
was just a bone-headed idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake
and walk away from it.
But there's only one problem with that. It wouldn't be honest. I
in fact did what I believe was right for the people of my state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Well, of course the people of his state think it was right
for the people of the state. So he's got that on his side, and
particularly the doctors think so. And he's been accused of being --
switching sides too much, and so he has to be at least somewhat
WILL: That's precisely the problem. The Romney of 2012 cycle is
hostage to the Romney of the 2008 cycle. When he changed on an array of
social issues, stem cell research, gay marriage, right to life, all that
stuff. So, now, you can't win for losing here. And the tense of his
verb was everything. He said I did what I believe, present tense, I
believe was right for the people of my state, not that I believed.
WALTER: And even Nikki Haley jumped in--
AMANPOUR: I was going to say, yes.
WALTER: She made a comment in that interview with you--
AMANPOUR: She didn't think he'd gone far enough.
WALTER: You know what, we like candidates who are courageous and do
the right thing, but also admit when they've made some mistakes. But I
do think that George is exactly right, that it's the perception more
than the policy that's the issue.
ROBERTS: But you know, Mitt Romney's problem is not health care.
Mitt Romney's problem is that he's a very stiff candidate that voters
don't relate to. And that's something that he -- I don't think can
AMANPOUR: So generally, we hear that in the Republican Party,
there's sort of a pecking order, and it's sort of viewed as so-and-so's
time next. Do you think that that will be the case next time?
WILL: No, this is the most open scramble on the Republican side
since 1940, when Wendell Wilkie came out of the woodwork and swept the
I think people are complaining that this is not off to a brisk
start. I think that's wrong. I think we know with reasonable certainty
that standing up there on the west front of the Capitol on January 20th,
2013 will be one of three people. Obama, Pawlenty and Daniels. I think
WALTER: But, let's just -- but we do have to remember, too, that
we're talking about Mitt Romney in a vacuum right now, without other
candidates around. So we can put the spotlight on him, but we also have
to put it in context, which is those other candidates and all their
baggage, and we'll get to that.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk about Daniels, because you heard Nikki Haley,
she couldn't say enough about him. Many people are urging him to jump in.
WALTER: Of course they are urging him to jump in. He is--
ROBERTS: Mitch Daniels is a very appealing guy. He was in
Washington for years, which probably will work against him. But it was
something so that -- we all know him, and that sort of helps at this
stage of presidential, you know, wannabe. He's from a state that
matters, and much more quietly than other governors, he has done the
things that are going on in Wisconsin in terms of the public unions. He
has just signed a bill that's cut off aid to Planned Parenthood in his
state. So that even though he said he didn't want to put social issues
front and center, the truth is he's more out there on that issue in
terms of actual policy than anybody else.
WILL: The idea that he's the Hamlet of Indianapolis is absurd.
He's taking his time and he knows that, given the new fund-raising
reality, you can take your time.
He was in Washington recently, and someone said, do you want to run
for president? He says no sane person wants to run for president. But
this is Broder's law. The late David Broder said anyone who will do
what you have to do to become president shouldn't be allowed to be
AMANPOUR: Well, no sane person, maybe, but also nobody whose wife
is so opposed to it? I mean, it's been written about all week, hasn't
it, in all these different newspapers, about how much of a nonpolitical
spouse is Cheri Daniels.
WALTER: Right. And Haley Barbour had the same issue, too, which is
when you've been in this context, they have both been at the NFL level,
they know what it takes to play at that level and they know the
consequences for their family. There's no naivete there. So I think
that is a really serious and true concern of his and his family. But
it's also hard -- I mean, I agree with George about that he does have
plenty of time. This is not -- it's not too late for him to get in.
The question, though, is, if he does decide to get in, will he still
feel as strongly, internally, once this race gets going? And it's just
very hard to be pulled into a race. I find that candidates--
ROBERTS: The fire in the belly has absolutely got to be there. I
mean, you heard Mike Huckabee, my hear says, no, no, no, it's now a
country music song I'm sure.
But on the life question, this has been part of the American
politics since the very beginning. Dolly Madison was accused of being
overly sexed and unsexing James Madison. And worse things were said but
I can't say them on a Sunday morning television show. But they are not --
ROBERTS: I'll tell you later, but they were in the newspapers,
however. So that's been part of the game from the beginning.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about that, because around the world,
people look at the American race and they see a lot of emphasis on
families, on various issues that we're talking about. Mitch Daniels and
his wife, they were divorced, she married, she came back, they
remarried. And of course, Newt Gingrich who has just got in is spending
a lot of time having to talk about his third wife and these multiple
Let me just play that and then we'll talk about whether this is
going to be an issue this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: There are things I did in the past I'm not proud of. I
have had to go to God and ask for forgiveness and to seek
reconciliation. But if you measure who I am, what I've learned, how I
live my life, and you look at my close relationship with my two
daughters, my close relationship with my grandchildren, the kind of
marriage that Callista and I have, I hope people will look at who I've
grown into, what I've learned, and decide that I'm someone that they can
trust with the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that was to Jorge Ramos at Univision. Convincing?
Relevant? Does he have to go out there and say that?
ROBERTS: Well, he has to go out there and say that, but I'm not
sure it is going to convince anybody. You know, having three wives and
having left two of them in somewhat unpleasant circumstances, to put it
mildly, and three religions, the most recent of which is Catholicism,
and there's an awful lot of divorced Catholics who are very pained by
this situation, of their own divorce, and feeling like they can't be
Catholic. And to have this sudden new Catholic with three wives is not
going to play well with them.
AMANPOUR: And beyond that, obviously Newt Gingrich does consider
himself a big thinker and he's talked a lot about that.
ROBERTS: He is a big thinker.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. Nikki Haley said there will be a time and a
place for Newt Gingrich. Is his time up? Is his time now?
WILL: He's been out of elective office for 12 years. Now, John
Quincy Adams was out for 17 years before he became president, but he was
John Quincy Adams--
ROBERTS: And he was secretary of state, and that was the stepping
WILL: Newt Gingrich's problems are so far beyond just his multiple
marriages and all of that. His ethanol love affair right now. On 7th
of March, he said let's go get Gadhafi. On the 23rd of March, he says I
never favored intervention. He did it on television.
WILL: Yes, exactly. He is one of these people who says that to
understand Barack Obama, you need to understand his Kenyan,
anti-colonial mentality, and this is just not a serious candidate.
WALTER: I want to go -- because I think one of the other
interesting things that we talk a lot about that he was going to be the
idea person in this. You talk to anybody about Newt Gingrich, even
before they jumped in, they said, you know what, he's going to help set
the policy table for Republicans. But actually the person who is a
bigger threat to Newt Gingrich is actually Paul Ryan, because Paul Ryan
has become the idea generator for the Republican Party. He's now that
new face with the new ideas, and he's the one who sort of forced
Republicans onto that.
ROBERTS: The policy agenda for Republicans is not him. That's the
policy. And, you know, the whole question of, oh, we don't like our
candidates and all that. That happens every election cycle. And in
2008, the Democrats were looking around and they said, oh, my goodness,
the economy is tanking. If we just nominate, white bread, white guy
he'll win. And our other candidates are unelectable. Let's draft Al
Gore back, let's do all of this, and the Republicans are in the same
kind of swivet this year. And you know what? Somebody will get the
nomination, and if the economy is in the tank, that guy is likely to win.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that brings us to Barack Obama. The president we
hadn't spoken about. The bounce from bin Laden, will that propel him to
the presidency again?
WILL: It has a life, I think, of 10 points for 30 days, maximum?
And then it will be gone.
WALTER: Five thus far.
ROBERTS: I actually think it does. Not propel him to the
presidency, necessarily, but change people's view of him. It has,
beyond just the bump in the polls, he comes across as decisive, daring
and pro-defense. All of those things are good.
AMANPOUR: All right. On that note, thank you all so much.