KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At a book signing here, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said the GOP has only itself to blame for Todd Akin’s recent loss to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who won nearly 55 percent of the vote to the Republican challenger’s 39 percent.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee talks with Maguire, 13, and Maddux, 8, and their father, Martin Radosevic, of Kansas City. (Diana Reese for The Washington Post)

After Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape,” many in the party wanted him off the stage and out of the race. But Huckabee says it was that reaction, and not Akin’s comment, that doomed his campaign:  “It was like they not only saw his wounded body on the battlefield but pumped more bullets into him, and then they took what little water and food was left and took it away from him.”

So he has no regrets about supporting Akin? 

“Not at all,” Huckabee told me. “I regret the Republican Party’s complete abandonment of Todd Akin.”

“The Republicans did more damage than the Democrats,” he added, and “allowed him to be beaten to death with no money. I attribute his loss more to what was done to him than what he did. His own army jumped all over him and abandoned him, and they didn’t do it quietly, but publicly and excoriatingly.” 

Huckabee was far more critical of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, and his post-election comment that President Obama won the election with “gifts” to minorities and the young. “Having grown up poor, I know that poor people aren’t poor because they want to be,” Huckabee told me,  joining the long list of Republicans who can’t seem to run away from Romney fast enough. “They’re not on government assistance because they want to be.”

He knew this not only because of his own experience, he said, but from the people he had met “at the bottom of the economy” while working as a pastor, a community volunteer and governor of Arkansas.“Nobody who’s poor wants to be, that’s for sure. There’s a lot of pain out there.”

Will Romney’s comments hurt the future prospects of the Republican Party? Huckabee doesn’t think so. “That’s his own view and not the prevailing view of the rank and file of the Republican Party and all the working-class people who are conservative and Republican,” he said.

When he spoke Thursday morning to an agribusiness breakfast in Wichita, however, Huckabee did criticize the party for mirroring Romney’s view of the not-rich: “I blame Republicans for almost presenting the idea that people who are getting any type of assistance certainly must want to be there,” the Wichita Eagle reported. “And the callousness and the indifference that we communicated with it is a large part, I believe, of the ultimate defeat.”

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.