- The Washington Times
Thursday, January 28, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee plans to attend rival Donald Trump’s event for veterans Thursday that was organized to compete with the Fox News debate that the billionaire businessman is boycotting.

“I’m delighted to join with Donald Trump in an effort to salute veterans,” Mr. Huckabee said on CNN, adding his participation was not an endorsement of Mr. Trump and that he was still in the race to win.

Mr. Huckabee, who throughout the race has been mired in the low-single digits in polls, will be in the early undercard debate. He said he didn’t have anything else on his schedule during the main debate, which coincides with Mr. Trump’s event.

Mr. Huckabee said he “didn’t feel an compulsion” to watch the main debate.

While not endorsing his rival, Mr. Huckabee praised Mr. Trump and also expressed misgivings about Sen. Ted Cruz, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Mr. Trump in Iowa, which holds its leadoff caucuses Monday.

“I’m not sure I’d be willing to do this with every one of the Republican presidential candidates,” Mr. Huckabee said. “But I’ll do it with Donald Trump. I respect him. I like him. We’ve had a great relationship. We’re competitors in this race but we are still colleagues toward some issues and veterans is one of them.”

He later raised concerned that Mr. Cruz switches positions depending on his audience and because of his close ties to Wall Street. His comments and his attendance at the veterans event only fueled speculation that Mr. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, is on the short list of possible running mates for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump pulled out of the main debate because of a dispute with Fox News that grew out of a feud with anchor Megyn Kelly.

Mr. Huckabee, who had a talks show on Fox News for more than six years before quitting to run for president, said he wouldn’t get in the middle of the dispute between Mr. Trump and the network.

“Those are my friends. I love those folks. I love Megyn Kelly,” he said. “I don’t have an issue with them. But I have an issue with [treatment of] veterans. I really feel like these guys are getting hosed.”

He noted that troops are returning from war zones with post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems and waiting to get treatment, as approximately 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

“Every American ought to be outraged over that,” he said.

Mr. Trump has pledge to make a substantial donation to charities for veterans. Details of the hastily arranged event at Drake University in Des Moines have not been released.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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