Former Gov. Mike Huckabee on Friday criticized the partisan stalemate in Washington, called on the Republican Party to find unity and said it's possible he'll make another bid for the White House.
Huckabee spoke to more than 100 members of the Political Animals Club in a wide-ranging breakfast speech in downtown Little Rock.
Huckabee, who served as governor from 1996 to 2007 and made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, said he's thought about another run, though he has no timeline for making a decision on whether to enter the 2016 race.
"I mean it's not something I lay at wake at night [about]," he told reporters after his formal remarks to the club. "It's obviously a process I'm still young enough and capable enough to consider. That's all I can say at this point ... I don't feel like I"m under the gun to make a decision by a certain date."
In a question-and-answer session with the club members, Huckabee said the dysfunction in Washington that resulted in the government shutdown and other partisan gridlock is due to a "complete lack of understanding of the system and the process" by politicians who don't know how to work together.
"You just don't get everything you want," Huckabee said. "When people have the attitude all or nothing, now or never, you're going to get nothing and you're going to get it forever."
He added that his "partisan self would tell you ... it's also a lack on leadership on the executive whose responsibility it is to find a way to bring the people together." Huckabee noted that President Barack Obama has had few meetings with Republican congressional leaders since taking office, but he also criticized "some of the Republicans ... who truly went to a ballgame without a bat or ball."
"It truly underscored some people have forgotten this is not a campaign trail anymore," he said.
Huckabee said his own party is hurting itself in places across the country where challengers are launching well-funded primary bids to take out Republican incumbents they believed weren't conservative enough.
"We've got a lot of Republicans throwing grenades in the tent," he said. "We're fighting the wrong team here. I know there's a lot of Democrats in the room, but our battle is to beat you guys. And we're not going to do that if we beat up each other so much that we're all wounded and absolutely mangled and we can't even go into the building."
On Social Security and immigration, the country needs considerable change, Huckabee said. On the former, he suggested offering Americans a one-time, tax-free buyout at a certain age in exchange for giving up future benefits. And on immigration, he said the border between U.S. and Mexico first needs to be secured and then workers should be allowed in "as we need them."
"We understand that we shouldn't have an unlimited number of immigrants that would maybe take jobs from American citizens," Huckabee said. "But if American citizens don't want the jobs, then we need to bring the immigrants in to take the jobs so our economy is strong."
Huckabee was also asked during the program why he left Arkansas and bought a home in Florida. He said he did so for business interests tied to that state, because he was able to buy the home at the "bottom of the market" and to step out of the spotlight he'd occupied in Arkansas.
"It's not a lack of love," he said. "I fly an Arkansas flag above my home in Florida. My heart's still the Razorbacks, even this year. And it's awfully hard this year."