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WASHINGTON -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a one-time Baptist pastor who may have some of the strongest religious credentials of any presidential hopeful, said Wednesday that a candidate's religion is relevant.
"I think its fair game to ask a person about his or her faith," Huckabee told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I mean, I'm asked about mine all the time. I don't find that offensive."
Huckabee is competing in a crowded field for the Republican nomination, and, like other contenders, is hoping to rally a key base of the party: religious conservatives. Likewise, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is courting the same crowd but facing a hurdle because many Americans view his faith with hesitation.
The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, lists The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a cult.
Asked whether Romney's faith is fair game, Huckabee said candidates who say they are religious should speak out about their faith.
"I find that very important because my faith will let people know what my judgments are based on, what my values system is about and where it comes from." Huckabee said. "It's a good predictor of how I would likely make decisions and what I think are the important factors in that."
Earlier, in a sit-down interview with the Washington bureau of the MediaNews Group, The Tribune's parent company, Huckabee was asked point-blank whether he personally considers the LDS Church to be a cult.
"I don't know enough about the Mormon faith," Huckabee responded. "I really don't know that much about it, other than I know Mitt's a nice guy."
A spokesman for Romney said he embraces the opportunity to "discuss how his faith and his values helped him build a strong marriage and a wonderful family."
Other presidential candidates, including Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have said that the presidential race is not about a candidate's personal religion.
In other comments, Huckabee said his low poll numbers did not concern him.
"If I didn't think there was a great chance, I wouldn't do it," Huckabee said.
He also took a shot at candidates who are expected to raise and spend $100 million in the buildup to the primary battles early next year. "Anybody who burns through $100 million by the end of the year is not somebody I want in charge of the federal treasury," Huckabee said.
On immigration, Huckabee said it was unrealistic to say that America could "round up" all the undocumented immigrants in the nation and export them in a weekend. He says the nation needs to first secure its borders and then find a way to allow the undocumented immigrants who are here to pay a penalty if they want to stay.
Huckabee says he's not discouraged that he's not considered a front-runner for the Republican ticket. "I'm convinced there's still a wide-open race for this nomination," he said.