AMES, Iowa -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had some harsh words at the straw poll for former Masachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, two candidates skipping the event.
"You shouldn’t just give a speech at $35,000 a plate [event] then leave. They’ve got to answer tough questions, and America needs Iowa to happen," Huckabee told The Hill after performing the gospel song "Hold On" with candidate Herman Cain. The straw poll "shows the capacity of a candidate to organize and sell his message. Without this I think the candidates really don’t understand the value of retail politics," he said.
He said he does plan to stop by Rep. Michele Bachmann's tent, which had not been announced prior to the event.
"I'm going to go by her tent but I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to play with one of her bands or not," he said. "But I’ll go by and say hi – a lot of my friends and former staffers are supporters of hers."
Huckabee said Perry's decision to announce his candidacy today was a clear slight towards Iowa and would not be forgotten by Hawkeye voters. "It’s not going over well in Iowa, I’ll tell you that," he said. "They work really hard to make this the political center of the universe in the summer. I don’t know why you make this decision to [announce] today."
Huckabee and Romney had a sometimes-testy relationship during the 2008 primary. When asked directly about Romney's decision to skip the caucus, Huckabee was circumspect.
"It’s indicative that he doesn’t expect to play in Iowa, and that’s a decision that he’s got to make and I respect that," he said. "But the process of running for president is a marathon, and every marathon has a first mile. Iowa is the first mile of the marathon."