NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—It was an invite-only press conference for Mike Huckabee, the once and possibly future presidential candidate. Shortly after 10:40, when he reached a small, guarded ballroom, Huckabee was met with an audience that was half conservative blogs and half the mainstream press. The conservatives asked Huckabee to talk about the GOP's economic message and reaching "independent women." The press had a few questions about Hillary Clinton.
For example: Was Huckabee at a disadvantage if Clinton ran for president in 2016?
"Would I be at a disadvantage because I know her better than anyone else?" he asked, quizzically. He didn't think he would.
CNN's Dana Bash started to ask Huckabee whether the 2012 attacks in Benghazi would be the focus of a 2016 campaign. "Get me right this time," Huckabee told Bash. "Don't tweet out."
He was referring to a month-old incident, when Bash tweeted a Huckabee line about Democrats seeing women only for their libidos. But he answered her question anyway.
"It's a rallying cry for every American who's concerned about why four Americans were murdered and we didn't send anybody in there to rescue them," Huckabee said of Benghazi.
Would it be an issue?
"God help us if it isn't."
ABC's Jeff Zeleny asked Huckabee to respond to Rand Paul, who'd been deflecting any question about Clinton or a "war on women" by calling Bill Clinton a "sexual predator." Huckabee didn't want to go there.
"Bill Clinton is not going to be on the ballot in 2016 or 2014," he said. "It's very possible that his wife will. What she said, what she did, how she has served both as a senator and a secretary of state, I think that's all fair play. I personally don't like to see us get into the personal issues of candidates, because once you go down that road it's hard to go into reverse."
Huckabee took one more question, about whether young people were growing up less socially conservative, and headed for the exits. Steve Deace, an influential Iowa conservative radio host, got right next to Huckabee and asked about 2016.
"It's not a decision I've made and it's not one I'll plan to make until we get past the 2014 elections. Am I open to it? Yeah, I've made that clear. I think it's a very different place for me than it was before. I came to the conclusion in 2012 that I could not see a pathway through the primary. I also wasn't sure it was going to be possible to unseat an incumbent president who had an incredible machine, both money and organization. The timing just wasn't good for me."
Deace wanted to follow up the question. The rest of the press was ushered away. The Iowa radio host was beckoned to follow Huckabee.