On the Bus with Huckabee

ABC News' Kevin Chupka reports: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a reputation among the press as being very accessible (at least compared to many of the other presidential candidates). Between St. Johns, Mich., and somewhere on Highway 96 tonight, Huckabee left his plush campaign bus and stepped over bags of Wendy’s leftovers for what is now becoming a semi-regular bus chat. He sits with his back against a bus window and casually answers the questions tossed his way by the still modest traveling press corps.

These bus-time media availabilities, however, afford some reporters time to dig deeper. A more relaxed atmosphere than structured press conferences; we are offered glimpses of the man, more than of the politician. For instance, tonight, after a day in Detroit, a city ravaged by economic downturn the issue of "hope" came up. "Is hope something you can give as a President?" asked one reporter.

Said Huckabee, "Hope has to be built on something tangible but hope is something that you give; it’s what you inspire and encourage in others."

Just because these media availabilities are more laid back does not mean they are any less substantive. For instance, tonight we discussed some of Huckabee’s Democratic counterparts, a subject sometimes lost in the shuffle of Republicans vying for one nomination.

On the similarities between his campaign and that of Barack Obama, Huckabee sees the comparison. He points to some of his rhetoric that Democrats aren’t always wrong and Republicans aren’t always right as both a similarity between him and the junior senator from Illinois, but also as a reason that some in the GOP establishment are so seemingly terrified of Huckabee becoming the Republican nominee.

One reporter went so far to ask whether Huckabee fashions himself as the Obama of the Republican party -– ever the quick wit, Huckabee predictably shot back, "He fashions himself as the Huckabee of the Democratic party."

As for a general election pitting him against either Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton, Huckabee sees a Clinton campaign "focused on the depth and nuances of detailed policy," whereas a race against Obama might be more about "vision and direction and the big picture."

The talk wasn’t all Democrats though. Huckabee also addressed Thursday’s Fox News debate in which Fred Thompson fired at Huckabee directly. This morning, on a rather light-hearted morning cable show he suggested that Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, take some Metamucil.

Tonight he clarified, "It just seemed like he was very uncomfortable and unhappy last night," adding, "I really do believe that if people can’t have some kind of sense of humor as they approach this stuff, then it causes everybody to become so locked down and consultant driven and their campaigns become so boring because all they’re gonna do is give this robotic answer to everything that is so scripted."

The two buses (the staff and the media) pulled into a rest stop to exchange possible presidential cargo and we continued on to Grand Rapids, the press bus full of typing fingers relaying the latest from our own "fireside chats" with Huckabee.

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