Associated Press Writer - OKOBOJI, Iowa (AP) Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned Republicans Wednesday against moving to the "mushy middle," arguing that only clearly stated conservative policies can bring the party back to power.
Huckabee spoke during his second trip to Iowa since he won the 2008 Republican caucuses. That win was the high point of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, which ultimately went to Arizona Sen. John McCain.
"I hear people who give advice that the Republicans need to moderate. They need to be a little more to the left," Huckabee said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It sounds like advice that Democrats would give to us so that we'd never win another election ever."
Some argue that Republicans have lost Congress and the White House because they've turned the party over to social and religious conservatives, driving away moderates and independents. Huckabee made precisely the opposite argument.
"It's when they move to the mushy middle and get squishy that they get beat," he said.
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, argued that the U.S. is a conservative country receptive to Republican ideals.
"Historically, the way we've found our way back to winning, having clear convictions that are conservative and then when elected, act like it," he said. "In every election, when Republicans have had clarity of convictions and those convictions were conservative, they win."
He warned that many Republicans have gone astray by buying into President Barack Obama's big-spending effort to stimulate the economy, a move he called "a big, colossal, utterly disastrous mistake.
"Our Republicans have culpability in that," Huckabee said. "There were some people who questioned whether I was really conservative. I don't want to hear, ever, people ever again talk about how conservative they are if they supported that."
Huckabee spoke later Wednesday at a business convention and planned to appear at a fundraiser for Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Iowa. Vander Plaats was a top leader of Huckabee's caucus bid.
His return to Iowa, where presidential campaigns usually start, has caused speculation that he's laying the foundation for another run. Now a commentator for the Fox television network, Huckabee downplayed such thoughts, saying Republicans should be focused on next year's midterm election. "Anybody who already has decided right now they are definitely running for president doesn't need to be, because they think it's all about them," Huckabee said. "We don't know what our country is going to be like in two years. I can't make that determination right now."