Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran against John McCain in the primaries, spoke at the Republican Convention shortly before Sarah Palin's acceptance speech Wednesday. I interviewed him Thursday.
How does Sarah Palin's candidacy change the race?
I think it's really energized the base of the party and given people a reason to be excited about the ticket. There was a lot of anxiety about McCain picking Lieberman. He really gave people a reason to be not just accepting about the ticket. Everyone I've talked to is excited about the ticket. It's a completely different atmosphere than it was a week ago.
Do you think Palin's pregnant daughter will change whether people will vote for her?
The way the media went after the daughter is the most shameful thing I've ever seen in my life. If anything, it just caused [evangelicals] to run to her. Everyone understands that the basis of being a Christian is that everyone has fallen short of God's ideal. Everyone understands that. We do understand is that when there's a problem or failures, the family sticks together. We saw a mother who gave her unconditional love to her daughter. That embodies what Christianity means. We all mess up, the issue is how we respond to it. What she showed us is exactly what we wanted to see in terms of a witness.
The religious outreach is much less public here than it was in Denver. Why do you think that is?
For Republicans to recognize the value voters is nothing new. It's not out of the ordinary. It's not just recognizing them as an extraordinary. It represents what's in the heart in soul of the convention. It's not like we have to reach to that which is right in the party.
Do you think the issues that evangelicals care about have changed?
I think one of the things that is positive is that while they are still steadfast on life and marriage, but there's a broadening of the issues. People are care about hunger, poverty, and diseases. It's one of the things I'm very, very thrilled to see. I've advocated for a long time education reform, health care reform, and conservation. Those are issues that touch everybody.
How has your faith affected your policies?
In two ways. I don't have to wake up every morning and think what do I want to believe today. You sense that public policy ought to be a direct result of your deep convictions, not just trends that you can pick up on through polling. I believe in my heart of hearts that sanctity of every human life is important. I don't support traditional marriage because polls show I should. It's the foundation of our society. In that way, I think it's a part of shaping your views and the priorities you have.
Some have called you economically more liberal.
Totally false. Absurdly false. That was one of the most ridiculous attacks I've ever heard.
I cut taxes, balanced the budget, I was one of the strongest supporters of fair tax. When people said those things, they based it not on objective fact finding … they drank the Kool-Aid. But when then they did their own research, they saw I have a strong conservative record on fiscal issues.
What challenges will McCain have to face before the election?
I think he did it with [Palin's] selection. I don't see any barriers at this point.
Do you think he'll receive as many votes from evangelicals as President Bush did in 2004?
I'm beginning to believe he is. I've heard nothing but excitement and energy. I just really sense that there's a completely different attitude than there was a week ago.
McCain doesn't talk about his faith the same way that Sen. Obama does.
Some people eat their soup louder than other people, but it doesn't mean the soup tastes better.
What about the evangelicals who may be taking a second look at Obama?
I think his appearance at Saddleback really hurt him among people who are looking for a candidate with their values. It was absurd for him to say that the definition of when life begins was above his pay grade.
What are your future plans? Do you have plans to run again?
I have no idea. My own plans are to help Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin get elected.