Tim Pawlenty should fire his advisers following his disappointing performance during the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, says his friend, former GOP front-runner Mike Huckabee.
It is not too late for the former Minnesota governor to repair the damage from the debate, but he has to take action quickly, said Huckabee, a Fox News host.
|Mike Huckabee says Tim Pawlenty's refusal to confront Mitt Romney means he has opted to “run away from his own comments.”(Getty Images Photo)
“He’s over-coached, over-consulted,” Huckabee said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “Get rid of them.”
Pawlenty has been criticized strongly for failing to confront Mitt Romney over healthcare during the CNN-sponsored debate Monday night, prompting some critics to label him a “wimp.”
Just 36 hours earlier, he had coined the term “Obamneycare” to link the healthcare bill Romney passed while governor of Massachusetts with the controversial one President Barack Obama pushed, Congress passed, and Obama signed into law.
But when sharing the stage with Romney, he repeated the quip only reluctantly under pressure from moderator John King. “If it was Obamneycare on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ then why is it not Obamneycare with the governor standing right there?” King said.
For future debates, Huckabee advised Pawlenty to “walk into the hall with your heart, go in there with what you know you believe and what you know you have done, listen to the question, speak to it.
“If you make a mistake, so what? Americans can live with leaders if they make mistakes. What they can’t live with is a leader who doesn’t know where his own compass is pointing.
“That’s what Americans, and particularly Republicans, are looking for on every one of those debate stages. Who comes here, not so much with an index card filled with clever answers that a consultant wrote but who comes here with a clarity of conviction and a consistency of thought.”
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, described Pawlenty as “a good friend and a great candidate” but said his failure to confront Romney meant he had “run away from his own comments.”
In the end, Romney did not have to defend anything, said Huckabee. “He was able to be the front-runner. Nobody really went after him – that’s unusual, because typically if you’re the front-runner, everybody’s got you marked and they’re going to go after you and try to take something off of you. This didn’t happen.”
If Pawlenty takes Huckabee’s advice, he would be the second major candidate to change horses midstream. Virtually all of Newt Gingrich’s top advisers walked out on Thursday, just four days before the debate. The general opinion is that Gingrich did better than expected when he took the stage in Manchester.
Huckabee agreed with most other pundits that Michele Bachmann was the main winner in Monday’s debate, showing “a clarity and a feistiness.”
“People sometimes forget that it’s not what one says, it’s how one says it that is equally important,” said the former Arkansas governor. “One of the things that Michele Bachmann brings to the race is a level of energy and a sense of exuberance, a sense of optimism.
“What Americans want right now is to be told that we’re going to get rid of this president and get back to getting America on track and more than anyone right now who is on the stage she is not giving a gloom and doom message.
“She is realistic about the debt, she is straightforward about the problems we face with our overspending and some of the issues we have confronted, but she is also giving us the sense that we can turn this around.”
Huckabee said there is an opening for at least one candidate to come out stronger on the Afghanistan war and not just take the “safe” stance about listening to the generals before deciding what to do.
“One of the Republicans is going to have to break out with something bolder and say we are not going to rebuild Afghanistan, we need to rebuild America . It’s America that’s in shambles and if we don’t start concentrating on this country, we’re gonna look like Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is the most absolutely barren place I have been ever in my life and when I was there, I left saying I think I’ve been where the Flintstones live, it was just that kind of almost indescribable sense of ancient world that has never really found its way to the 16th century, much less the 21st.”
And he insisted that the GOP race is far from over with plenty of time for more candidates to join.
“The latest poll showed Romney in the lead, a pretty definite lead, but 24 percent. That means 76 percent either have chosen someone else or haven’t decided and that’s a pretty big margin of error at this point.”
At the end of the day, despite the appearance of a feud between him and Romney, he said he would support the GOP nominee.
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