Huckabee: Same Message, New Focus for N.H. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee won Thursday night's Iowa caucuses, the first presidential contest of 2008. Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas and an ordained Baptist Minister, and it's thought that a strong evangelical turnout at the GOP caucuses helped him.
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Huckabee: Same Message, New Focus for N.H.

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Huckabee: Same Message, New Focus for N.H.

Huckabee: Same Message, New Focus for N.H.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Today, New Hampshire woke up to a political invasion. The candidates - or at least the ones who survived the Iowa caucus tallies - arrived en masse along with the media scrub(ph).

SIEGEL: Iowa's big winners - Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee - were out to prove that they have momentum and staying power going into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

We'll hear from our reporters traveling with four of the campaigns in a few minutes. First, Melissa spoke with the happiest Republican contender.

BLOCK: We're joined now by Mike Huckabee. He's on a campaign bus in New Hampshire. Governor Huckabee, welcome to the program.

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Presidential Candidate): Thank you very much. A pleasure to be here, and I hope the cell signal holds on for the ride.

BLOCK: We hope so too. Now, according to the latest polls from New Hampshire, you are battling for a distant third place there. You have about a weekend, a little bit more to campaign in that state. How do you turn last night's success in Iowa to a victory in New Hampshire?

Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, certainly, we come in to New Hampshire with some significant momentum, surprise, and really convincing win in Iowa in the caucuses. You know, I understand that there are some advantages that Senator McCain has from having been here a long time and a strong lead that he has now taken. Senator - or Governor Romney, rather, being next-door neighbor to New Hampshire and owning property here, but I also think people of New Hampshire are very independent. They'll make up their minds late. We're going to try to do everything we can to get some of them signing up with us before Tuesday.

BLOCK: But a very different population there in New Hampshire. Your finish last night in Iowa was held by a really heavy turnout of evangelical Christians; that put you over the top. That's not the case in New Hampshire by a long shot.

Mr. HUCKABEE: Not at all, but I think sometimes people make too much of the valued voters or evangelicals. It's a very important part of my base, but so are fiscal conservatives and so defense conservatives because they know that those are important issues. And the fact is a lot of people who are religious also believe in strong fiscal conservatism. There are people who believe in a very strong national defense.

So just because they're religious conservatives doesn't necessarily mean that they don't hold dear other forms and aspects of, really, the conservative part of our party.

BLOCK: Are you running the same ads in New Hampshire that you were running in Iowa? You had a bunch of ads touting your credentials as a Christian leader in Iowa.

Mr. HUCKABEE: Because of the concentrated schedule, we're running ads that focus more about cutting taxes and economic empowerment, and those are issues that really matter a whole lot to people in New Hampshire. So we're not really changing our message. What we are changing is just the focus and putting a real emphasis on the need to lower taxes and to have less government and not to make that a different message, but just a different focus.

BLOCK: You said that your first place finish last night in Iowa showed that people are more important than the purse. Now, you had enough money to get through the Iowa caucus, but how do you go on to wage campaigns in more than two dozen states over the next month without a lot of money in the bank?

Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, we're raising a lot of money. The win last night certainly put us in a position where people are beginning to realize we could go all the way. We actually ended December with as much of a cash flow as many of the other campaigns. Problem is some of them have these huge budgets that they can't meet. We've always operated very frugally, much like the federal government ought to be operating. Unfortunately it doesn't.

We do something the federal government doesn't do. We avoid deficit spending. We only spend what we have. The result is we had over $2 million cash on hand when we ended the quarter.

BLOCK: And how much do you have now? How much came in since last night?

Mr. HUCKABEE: Oh, gosh. You know, I haven't heard the last numbers. I know that we were raising, like, $20,000 every, you know, every 20, 30 minutes last night after the caucuses.

BLOCK: Governor Huckabee, you know well that there are parts of the Republican Party that are not at all happy about your win last night. How do you answer the criticism that you are not in line with fiscal conservatives in New Hampshire and elsewhere?

Mr. HUCKABEE: It's a charge that I don't think that I can understand and no one else could explain. I was the first governor in the history of my state to cut taxes. I did it 94 times, the first ever in 160 years. We held the line on government spending. I managed government well; took us from a $200 million deficit to an $850 million surplus. By anybody's definition, that's true fiscal conservatism.

BLOCK: Would you rule out any new tax increases?

Mr. HUCKABEE: I don't think we need any new tax increases at the federal level. We need to cut spending; we need to better manage the money we have. We need to modernize some of the processes so it's more efficient and less costly; that makes a lot more sense to me than raising taxes. And frankly, when you raise taxes, what you end up doing is have a counterintuitive effect on the economy by taking more money out of the (unintelligible)…

BLOCK: And at that point, I'm afraid we did lose our cell phone connection with Mike Huckabee, who was talking to us from his campaign bus, driving north between Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire.

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