PORTSMOUTH — Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he is pleased with his performance at Wednesday night’s Republican debate in Durham.
And, he said, since his good showing, doors have been opening for him in an Iowa straw poll.
“We’re going to continue to take up space and to build our team,” said Huckabee, during a media teleconference. “We’ve been getting more attention in the last few months, since the straw poll. Our fund-raising efforts have successfully increased in a couple of ways.”
He said online contributions were up; more funds are coming in each week than were collected the previous month. “What’s also dramatic,” he said, “is that just 48 hours after the poll, we booked fund-raisers in 16 states, many where we have been trying to set things up.”
The former Arkansas governor said he is not ready to release the amount of money his campaign has raised. He said more important right now is that it is gaining capacity and positive response.
Huckabee commented on Fred Thompson choosing to announce his candidacy on the Jay Leno show and skipping the debate.
“Why he didn’t choose to stand on stage with the rest of us is a question I can’t answer, but I think it will hurt him in New Hampshire, a state where people take politics seriously,” he said. “He will need to answer for that in New Hampshire. I say, if he makes his announcement on the day of a debate, he should have stood with the rest of us. Sometimes one doesn’t show up for a game because they fear they cannot win.”
All the Republicans expressed support for the war in Iraq, including Huckabee.
“We believed there was a threat to our security and to the Iraqi people,” he said. “We made major mistakes that resulted in serious turmoil in the nation, in a collapse of their infrastructure and civil unrest. We do have some responsibility for engaging in Iraq, and for us to say now it’s uncomfortable and messy, to leave, is a dishonor to those who fought and those who are there now.”
Huckabee said leaving would cost the nation its credibility in the future.
“Let the surge work,” he said. “I think next week will announce the beginning of some withdrawal.”
Huckabee said he hopes future debates focus more on domestic issues, like health care, education, energy and immigration.
The federal government has done a lousy job when it comes to immigration, he said.
“We have not enforced our borders,” he said. “I find it absurd that it’s more complicated for me to get on a plane in Arkansas than it is for an immigrant to enter the country,” said Huckabee. “Every night I thank God that I live in a country people are trying to break into. My anger is not at the immigrant, but to our government. These people want some of the same freedom and opportunity we have, and that’s fine. We need to do it one at a time through a legal process.”
Other Republican candidates participating were Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo.