A government shutdown might have to happen to force the government to deal with the budget deficit, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said Tuesday.

Huckabee, one of the top-tier candidates considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said a shutdown might not be as risky for the GOP as it was in 1995, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) showdown against President Clinton led to a closure of government.

"I think it could happen. And maybe it has to," Huckabee said on CBS. "Because sometime, either now or later, the government's going to shut down, either from bankruptcy in the future, or from a targeted effect to try to get someone's attention that we're overspending and not managing at all."

The federal government runs out of funding March 4, and Congress is out of town all of this week on a planned recess associated with Monday's Presidents Day holiday. That means lawmakers effectively only have next week to hash out a deal on spending or face a shutdown.

Republicans have said they're willing to agree to a short-term deal to keep the government running, but only at reduced spending levels. Democrats, by contrast, favor a short-term agreement at existing levels. If this impasse within an impasse can't be resolved, then the government would risk shutting down.

Huckabee suggested that might not be such a bad thing.

"It's a very different environment this time. A lot of the things that were shut down were automated, so it's not going to be as draconian, if it does happen," he said. "But there has to be at some point a reckoning with reality."

By contrast, Huckabee said over the weekend that a shutdown is "not the ideal solution" because it would create a disruption in benefits.

Huckabee's not the only potential presidential candidate to discuss a shutdown. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) said on Friday that a shutdown would "not necessarily ... be a bad thing on either side," while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) noted that his state survived a shutdown just fine.