Huckabee highlighted what he called a unique ability to beat "the Clinton political machine," pointing to his electoral success as Arkansas governor, a job he held between 1996 and 2007.
“There’s only one person I know in the Republican field that has consistently run against the Clinton political machine, the Clinton political money," Huckabee said. "Most all of my races, both Bill and Hillary Clinton came back to Arkansas to campaign for my opponents. So I know the process quite well -- and the good news for me is that I’ve defeated that political machine.”
Huckabee became a political star in 2008 when he pulled of a stunning win in the Iowa caucuses against much better funded candidates like Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. But he was unable to capitalize on his early success to build a national organization capable of securing the nomination.
Still, Huckabee rode his success to a plum TV gig at Fox News, where his stock among conservatives has continued to rise. He left the show in January after six years on air to consider another presidential bid in 2016.
Should he launch another campaign, Huckabee would join a crowded and competitive field for the Republican nomination. In Friday's session with reporters, Huckabee said he would be banking on a strong showing in Iowa. He acknowledged he's no lock to win the caucuses, but he boated about his strong organization there, and his message could appeal especially to Christian conservative caucus goers.
Huckabee said his path to victory also would include strong finishes in the South Carolina primary, the Nevada caucuses and contests in a string of Southern states to follow soon thereafter.
The former governor, who opened a presidential exploratory committee a few weeks ago, said he already has financial backing from an outside super PAC. "I don’t know that anybody can survive the process without there being a super PAC on their behalf," he said.
Huckabee was asked about campaign finance reform, an issue Clinton raised earlier this week as one of the issues she will prioritize in her campaign. He advocated a system of unlimited donations to campaigns directly and said all donations should be disclosed publicly immediately upon deposit.
“Then the candidate would be accountable for the message that was going out over his or her banner," he said. He added, "If somebody wanted to give you $100 million...they’d give it to your campaign. Now, the candidate would have to go out and defend whether he was a wholly owned subsidiary of the $100 million donor, but that would be a campaign decision and it would mean a far more accountable and frankly more honest approach than we have.”
Although Huckabee would not critique his Republican opponents, he had sharp words for Clinton. He said her record, both as secretary of state and on character issues like honesty, "is her Achilles' heel." And asked about her first campaign trip to Iowa this week, he made fun of what he described as an overly choreographed tour of small towns.
"It was sort of like rent-a-crowd," Huckabee said. "She had people who had been an Obama staffer, she had a Planned Parenthood executive. They really rounded up the usual suspects in a way that only Claude Rains could’ve fully appreciated and created these carefully staged moments where she had these informal, impromptu chats with carefully selected people. The whole time I was thinking, you know, I’ve been to Iowa a lot and I’ve never had any problems whatsoever finding Iowans in Iowa."
Huckabee had a suggestion for Clinton: "If you go to any Pizza Ranch in some small town in Iowa at noon, you’re going to run into a bunch of Iowans. ...If you bump into her, tell her give me a call, I’ll introduce her to some real Iowans."
Jose A. DelReal contributed to this story.