After winning the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee carried that theme into the Republican debate on Jan. 5, 2008, telling Romney, "I supported the surge when you didn't." He has made the point in other forums, too, saying in a Dec. 30, 2007, appearance on Meet the Press : "I stood by (President Bush) in the war. I stood by him in the surge. I wasn't a latecomer like Mitt Romney was to believing that the surge was effective."
Like Huckabee, Romney immediately and publicly supported the troop surge when President Bush announced it on Jan. 10, 2007. Seven months later, Romney announced a push to give extra support to the soldiers participating in the surge.
Because the record does not support Huckabee's claims, we asked his staff to explain. They responded with links to recent interviews and debates that they said would show a difference between the candidates. We'll address them individually:
• First, the staff analysis paired two clips — a Huckabee statement that aired Jan. 10 and 11 on the Fox network in which he praises Bush's announcement and a Dec. 2, 2006, article on the conservative Web site, HumanEvents.com, in which Romney — not yet a candidate for president — declined to weigh in on the issue until the president's announcement.
The staff omitted Romney's Jan. 10, 2007, announcement that he supported the surge. It also did not include Huckabee's Jan. 24, 2007, statement in an MSNBC interview expressing doubts about the strategy. In the interview, Huckabee said, "I'm not sure that I support the troop surge if that surge has to come from our guard and reserve troops which have really been overly stretched."
• Next, the Huckabee staff pointed to an April 3, 2007, interview on Good Morning America in which Romney supported a secret timetable for withdrawal, saying: "There's no question that the president and (Iraqi) Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. ... You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone."
The staff left out Huckabee's Feb. 13, 2006, interview with USA Today, in which he, like Romney, saw the need for a withdrawal strategy. "I supported the president when he went in," Huckabee told the newspaper. "But I am disappointed. We don't have an exit strategy. I worry about the equipment of our armed forces. I worry that there is no end game. I don't favor a pullout date, but I believe we have to have a timetable for Iraq to take over security and civil administration. And we don't have that."
• Finally, the staff points to a September 2007 Republican debate in Durham, N.H., arguing: "Governor Huckabee said, 'We have to continue the surge' (while) Governor Romney was only willing to commit that the surge was 'apparently' working, saying his course of action depended on 'if' the surge was working.
We would note two things.
First, the two candidates were asked very different questions in that debate. Romney was asked how long into the future he would commit U.S. troops in Iraq while Huckabee was asked directly if the surge should continue. Second, Romney also expressed hope the surge would work and said the troops should be supported.
In addition, we note that the Councll on Foreign Relations, an independent think tank, finds no difference between Romney and Huckabee on this issue, saying both support the troop surge.
Huckabee's claims about Romney were the subject of a Jan. 6, 2007, interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Wallace pressed him on the fact that the record did not square with his claims. Huckabee responded but did not answer the question.
The record shows that Huckabee and Romney both have supported the surge and, at times, have both expressed doubts about the ability of the president's Iraq strategy to work in the long run. Huckabee says he's more committed to the surge. We find his claim False.