Don't tell Mike Huckabee he no longer has the momentum that carried him to a caucus victory in Iowa eight years ago.
The former Arkansas governor and Fox News host was in high spirits during a stop Saturday at a gun range in Johnston, Iowa. Huckabee thanked Iowans for their continued support over the past year and took part in a friendly shooting competition with staff, surrogates and volunteers.
Nevertheless, Huckabee’s second bid in the Hawkeye State has been much different than his previous effort. In 2008, the prominent social conservative won Iowa handily,with more than a third of the vote and a nearly 10-percentage-point lead over second-place finisher Mitt Romney.
This year, Huckabee’s numbers are in the low-single digits.He gets only 2.6 percent in a Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls, and he has been relegated to the undercard debates.
But Huckabee said the success of his last caucus and his familiarity with the state are reasons to hope he can strike again.
“It’s all about having gone to these locations in every one of the 99 counties, and doing it early and doing it often,” he told reporters at the gun range. “We’ve done that – I know a lot of campaigns are scrambling all over Iowa these last few days trying to touch base here and there.
“We’ve already been there — we’ve been there repeatedly.”
He noted that Iowa governor Terry Branstad recently said Huckabee was “the person to watch” heading into Monday’s caucus, saying the former governor “will surprise people.”
“We’re believing that,” Huckabee said of Branstad's assessment.
He also used the setting to condemn
Democratic candidates' opposition to gun rights. Huckabee slammed efforts by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to push new gun-control legislation, saying the Democrats have a misunderstanding of the Second Amendment.
“Anyone who values their liberty should value the Second Amendment,” Huckabee said. "To quote the late, great Charlton Heston, ‘You can have my guns when you pry them through my cold, dead fingers.’”