Click here to view all videos and the full transcript from Mike Huckabee’s appearance on The Tonight Show.

In a controversial move, former Arkansas Governor and current Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee left the campaign trail the night before the Iowa caucuses to appear as Jay Leno’s guest on The Tonight Show for its return to live broadcast Wednesday.

Acknowledging the ongoing writers strike, the Governor’s campaign explained that the decision to appear was made only once they were, “…assured that no replacement writers were being used in the show’s production.” because, “Governor Huckabee believes that the writers deserve to be fairly compensated for the sale of their work.”

Huckabee said he would like to been seen by the American people as the, “…guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.” A view apparently shared by some political bloggers who have taken to referring to him as “Awshucksabee.” He is a former Baptist minister, and explained to Leno that he entered the political arena when he realized that decision makers were making policy “without knowing real poverty.”

Adding to his down home image, Huckabee is also known for his rock band “Capitol Offense” who performed in Des Moines at a January 1, 2008 fundraiser where he cajoled former Congressman and current MSNBC morning anchor Joe Scarborough to join him on guitar. In a moment reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s famous campaign appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show, Huckabee even accepted an offer to join Kevin Eubanks and The Tonight Show Band for a brief set.

Generally, the conversation between Leno and Huckabee avoided policy specifics, with the exception of a brief description of his Fair Tax proposal. Which is essentially a national sales tax in which everyone would pay 23 percent of what they consume — food, gas, sales however, the poor — below a certain threshold would be “untaxed” by getting a rebate. Huckabee said his plan would free people up to earn what they want.

Governor Huckabee also explained his decision to pull his first attack ad two days ago, minutes before a press conference with major media outlets seated only to then showed it to the media anyhow because he didn’t want them to think it didn’t really exist when it did. He cited that his conscious got in the way of dissing Romney, who has spent $8-9 million on negative ads in Iowa and New Hampshire against his two biggest opponents — Governor Huckabee and Senator John McCain. Huckabee pulled his own attack ad because he claimed in front of Leno he wanted to “stick to his message” which is to “stay positive” and talk about what the country needs, rather than what’s wrong with the other guys.

One Republican Party activist — not affiliated with a specific candidate — said the decision to appear on the show highlights Huckabee’s confidence with his current standing in Iowa. However, he noted, it is reminiscent of former Governor Howard Dean’s ill-fated decision in 2004 to leave the campaign trail during a similar time frame in favor of a joint appearance with former President Jimmy Carter.

Huckabee, sticking to his message, ended the evening on a positive note. When Leno asked which candidate he’d like to see on the Democratic side, Huckabee noted that all the Democrats were “sincere” however, there is a fundamental difference in their politics but he “respected anyone running for president.” He did note, that it seems as if Senator Barack Obama and him share a similar value in horizontal politics that is, politics is not just about left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrats and Republican but rather values vertical politics — where the candidate wants to bring the country up and not down, forward — not backwards.

About The Author

Heidi Buchanan is the Blast Magazine Washington reporter

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