Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee fanned the presidential rumor flames Thursday as he took the stage as a keynote speaker at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting and sought to unify his embattled Republican Party.
Huckabee said the Republican Party had a shot at winning the Senate in 2014, but warned the party needed to be united this election season. He admonished the GOP civil war that has divided the party and warned the infighting could lead to the party's demise. He spoke against deriding Republicans who don't always tote the party line – often called RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only.
"The only thing that would keep us from seeing that happen is if we decide we would rather fight each other than fight for the people of this country," Huckabee said. "Let's stop using the term RINO."
Yet, even as he urged Republicans to come together, the former minister remained unabashedly rigid in his belief that the GOP should not stray from its socially conservative principles. He spoke passionately about the need to preserve "traditional marriage" and fight against abortion.
He also decried Democratic claims that Republicans have waged a "war on women." While many in the GOP's leadership have urged Republicans to stop talking about the hot button issues, which landed them in trouble in several Senate races in 2012, Huckabee asked his party to combat the claims head on.
"Republicans don't have a war on a women. They have a war for women. Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control," Huckabee said.
He added later that "if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido and their reproductive system without the help of government, then so be it. Let's take that discussion all across America."
Huckabee also rallied his Republican base around reducing government regulation and high taxes, issues that remain at the core of the Republican Party's modern-day message.
"The government's boot should not be in your face every time you try to dig yourself out of hole," Huckabee said.
While many had dismissed Huckabee as a television commentator whose days in office were long behind him, Huckabee's presence at the winter meeting leaves some wondering if the former governor is trying to leave the door open for a potential 2016 run.
Huckabee told The Washington Post last month that he was getting more support to run than he had in the past.
Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for HuckPac, touted Huckabee's ability when he was governor to attract minority voters as a reason the governor could be the man for the job. Gidley said Huckabee seemed more serious about running in 2016 than he had in the past and was looking for ways to build bridges between the business and evangelical community within the Republican Party.
"Nobody brings factions together better than Huckabee," Gidley says.