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Mike Huckabee apologizes to Mitt Romney

December 12, 2007 |  6:42 pm

Mike Huckabee, the surging Republican candidate for president, may have pulled off another first today: He apologized for a remark he made in a newspaper interview that has not even been published yet.

In an 8,100 word article to appear in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, the former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist preacher, ignited a political controversy with just 10 of those words. He is quoted as asking, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

This was taken by many as a coded reminder message to evangelical Christians about the strangeness of beliefs in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which claims fellow GOP candidate Mitt Romney as a proud member, and a reminder that, as one Huckabee TV ad put it, he's a "Christian leader."

According to Huckabee, after today's final Iowa debate he walked up and formally apologized to Romney, who graciously accepted.

In a subsequent interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Huckabee said the debate had "a little less fireworks than I anticipated...I was kind of anticipating there would be blood on the floor,  most of it mine."

Huckabee claimed that the quote was a genuine question asked of the reporter who was...

telling him many things he did not know about Mormonism. "We were having a conversation," Huckabee said. "It was over several hours and the conversation was about religion and he was trying to press me on my thoughts of Mitt Romney's religion. And I said I don't want to go there. I don't know that much about it. I barely know enough about being a Baptist."

"He was telling me things about the Mormon faith," Huckabee continued, "because he, frankly, is fairly well-schooled on comparative religions. And so as part of that conversation, I asked the question, because I had heard that, and I asked it not to create something -- I never thought it would make the story.

"After the debate today I went to Mitt Romney and apologized to him, because I said, I would never try, ever, to try to somehow pick out some point of your faith and make it, you know, an issue...I told him face to face, I said, 'I don't think your being a Mormon ought to make you more or less qualified for being a president.' "

"Wolf," Huckabee added, "everybody I've talked to just about wants me to come out and say something about Mitt Romney's faith. I've not taken the bait, but if I don't say something, they say that I'm avoiding it (and) it is really an underlying statement. If I do say anything, then I'm attacking him. So I'm not sure how to deal with that."

Blitzer asked for Romney's reaction. "Well, he was gracious," Huckabee answered. "You know, I hope he knows it was sincere...I'm being much more cautious now because everything is being parsed. And, heck, not just the things I'm saying now. But, you know, we have got a lot of people dumpster-diving right now in the political process, and they're going through every old wastebasket they can find to dig up anything I have ever said."

Welcome, to the so-called top-tier of presidential campaigning.

--Andrew Malcolm