GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is expanding beyond his religious liberty message as his campaign lays out Huckabee’s battle plans for the 2016 race.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Senior Communications Advisor Hogan Gidley and Huckabee’s campaign manager, his daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders, explained what the former Arkansas governor plans to do differently in the 2016 race than he previously did in 2008, arguing experience is on Huckabee’s side.
“You guys know at the end of the day, you don’t vote for someone you don’t like,” Gidley said, pointing to Huckabee’s high favorability rating.
To his credit, Huckabee has one of the highest favorability ratings among GOP presidential candidates according to a recent Gallop poll, which has him with a national favorability rating of 57 percent.
Even more impressive is Huckabee’s favorability levels in Iowa at 67 percent and South Carolina at 59 percent, which are based on an average of recent polls.
“You want people to feel like they know you,” Gidley said on hand-to-hand combat in Iowa, in terms of connecting to voters. “No ones got a better solidified reputation right now than Governor Huckabee.”
He explained that Huckabee has built up his reputation since 2008 and is also well-known because of his television show on Fox News that aired for several years. “Now, he’s known and he’s liked and he’s trusted and that’s very very important to start out this race.”
“High favorability is good, but you also have to do something with that and get your message out there. It’s one of the second big components that not only have we put a lot of focus on, but know – it’s something we know works because we won in Iowa before – is a very deep and strong ground game and strong organization,” Sanders explained, saying the campaign spent a lot of time rebuilding and developing the base they had built in 2008 when Huckabee won Iowa.
“The environment is a little different, but the mechanics and the process is the same,” she said, referring to the ground game in Iowa, getting out and meeting voters across the state.
“Iowans don’t like to have a one night stand, the courtship is long and it’s a process,” she explained, adding that the focus this election for Huckabee is on the working class.
“Making sure there is an emphasis on American jobs and manufacturing jobs and protecting those individuals,” she stressed, saying most Republican candidates have a hard time connecting to the working class, a big voting block Huckabee is trying to tap into.
Gidley told Breitbart News that Huckabee’s campaign is not like his 2008 run, where the focus was that he was a former Baptist preacher.
“Now, we’re talking about what he did as governor – how he rooted out corruption, how he passed the first broad based tax cut in the history of the state, balanced the budget every year for 10 years – those are things you can talk about now because you’re not unknown,” he explained.
Huckabee’s 2016 plan is focusing more on the American worker and tapping into this voting block, in addition to maintaining his evangelical support.
The evangelical base is a strong majority of GOP voters in both Iowa and South Carolina – two key early states, as Iowa is the first to hold its caucus and South Carolina is the first state in the south.
The campaign is targeting seniors and the working-class as they are a big base for the Republican Party.
On seniors, Huckabee is one of the only candidates that is strongly focused on protecting Social Security and Medicare. As for the working class, he is championing the FairTax to bring offshore investments and manufacturing back to the United States, which will in turn produce jobs for American workers. He has also reached out to labor unions and blue-collar workers.
Sanders said the “path to victory, outside the organization, is being able to tap into the voting blocks that a lot of candidates can’t.”
Gidley and Sanders were asked about how Huckabee plans to react to social issues and criticism from the media, something the Republican Party has struggled with in the past.
“A lot of times they want to pigeon hole guys like my dad, Santorum, into this evangelical box,” Sanders responded. She added that Huckabee has spent a lot of time to make sure he has a message to other voting blocks – not just the evangelical vote.
Heading into the second GOP presidential primary debate, which is focusing on foreign policy, Huckabee sits pretty comfortably against his opponents as he has visited the Middle East more than any other presidential candidate. Huckabee has been to Israel 30 to 40 times as well as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, among other countries.
“You have to understand it and be willing to call it what it is,” Sanders stated, stressing the need to beat Islamic extremism especially in light of the Iran deal and ISIS.
Huckabee is currently in eighth place among fellow GOP candidates in the latest Real Clear Politics average.
“The summer blockbuster never wins the Oscar,” Gidley stated, in terms of the poll numbers.