Mike Huckabee in Ames: 2016 election about ‘getting America back on track’

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks at a meet and greet at Jeff’s Pizza in Ames on Jan. 27.

Alex Hanson

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor now running for the Republican nomination, made a plea Wednesday for potential voters to caucus for him when the first votes are cast next Monday.

Huckabee, who won the caucus in 2008, has struggled to gain traction this cycle — currently hovering at only a few percentage points in most polls — but has already visited all 99 counties in Iowa and will attend 150 events just in January.

Speaking to about 50 people gathered at Jeff’s Pizza on Lincoln Way on Wednesday afternoon, Huckabee joked with attendees, urging them to go caucus Monday, but, “If you’re thinking about caucusing for one of those other 320 people running, I would like to encourage you to stay home that night.”

“It’s going to be cold out there,” Huckabee joked.

Before taking questions, Huckabee told the audience that the 2016 election is important because what is at stake. 

Although outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have locked in the most support, Huckabee pitched himself as someone who would shake up Washington and challenge the status quo.

“I think the worst thing that has happened to the process of politics is that a handful of billionaires now control virtually every campaign and openly control the agenda of Congress in Washington,” Huckabee said.

When asked about his tax policy, Huckabee explained to the crowd why he supports the fair tax, which would change the current tax system and replace it with a national consumption, or sales tax — similar to what most pay already at the state level.

He also differentiated himself from other Republican candidates running for president. Huckabee said he is the only candidate who would protect Social Security, instead of making cuts to the program.

“I remember some of my early paychecks, I need that money taken out,” Huckabee said. “No, they took it away. But they always said they’re taking it away and will give it back at retirement. It is not the government’s money, it is yours.” 

He also went after Ted Cruz — without directly mentioning him — for his stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Cruz has consistently said he wants to phase out the federal mandate that requires ethanol to be blended into fuel. 

Huckabee, although saying the federal government does not have many good ideas, said the RFS is one of the few ideas implemented that actually has a positive impact on the economy.

Huckabee asked why “anyone” in Iowa would support a candidate who would get rid of the mandate, adding doing so would cost Iowa 75,000 jobs because of how it benefits the economy in the state.

Cruz, who says he is against the federal mandate because of principle, continues to sit atop the polls with Trump.

Actor Jim Labriola, known for his appearances in the TV show “Home Improvement,” also spoke at the event. While mixing in jokes with the audience, he said he believes Huckabee is a “modern-day Ronald Reagan” and is the only candidate who can get the job done if elected.

Huckabee’s stop in Ames on Wednesday was his second in the city during the month of January. He hosted a town hall at Oakwood Road Church earlier in the month.