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Huckabee Defends His Breaks From Conservative Orthodoxy

Sounding like a presidential candidate on 'Meet the Press', former Gov. Mike Huckabee walked a fine line on issues like Common Core and same-sex marriage.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee made it clear on Sunday that he's preparing to jump into the 2016 presidential race.

"When you become an active candidate, then you file the FEC papers. But I think it's pretty evident that I'm moving in that direction," he told Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press. Huckabee said he will decide whether to formally launch a presidential campaign by the late spring.

Huckabee also defended his breaks from conservative orthodoxy on Common Core education standards, immigration and cap and trade. He said he would support a bill to give in-state benefits to undocumented immigrants again, as he did in 2006 as governor of Arkansas.

"You don't punish a child for something his parents did. I want to get control of the borders... But I don't know that we've ever been a nation that said, 'If you're in the back seat of your car when your dad is speeding, we're going to charge you in the back seat for what your dad did up in the front seat.'"

Huckabee, however, did say that he would roll back the president's 2012 executive order giving the children of some undocumented immigrants legal status. "We have a thing called a constitution," he said. "And the Constitution doesn't allow the chief executive just to make up law.'"

Pressed by Todd repeatedly, Huckabee refused to say whether he would support a path to citizenship for the nation's more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. "There's got to be some form of, I guess, addressing the fact that they have broken the law. I don't think they ought to be put on buses and mass deported. That's not realistic or practical. But I do think that you can't just say, 'Okay, blanket amnesty.'"

Asked again whether he would support a path to legalization after imposing penalties, Huckabee said, "Exactly what are the penalties? That's why you have a Congress ... For me to tell you what it's going to look like when it's over, can't do that. I'm not president. And Congress hasn't even put a bill in front of him that ten people over in Congress can agree on yet."

Huckabee said he's changed his views on Common Core since he wrote a letter in 2013 calling the education standards "near and dear to my heart." "What happened was that the federal government decided to get involved, tie it to the Race to the Top funds, started adding things like data collection, expanded it to curriculum, took on a number of other topics and subject," he said.

The Obama administration provided $360 million dollars to two multi-state consortia that developed new testing aligned with the standards, but Common Core did not receive any federal funding in the 2015 budget passed this fall.

Huckabee suggested in media interviews this week that if the Supreme Court invalidates state bans on same-sex marriage, state legislatures should consider ways to resist. Asked by Todd whether he is advocating nullification, Huckabee did not walk back that argument. "I'm really saying that there is a process to change the law. And it doesn't just involve one unilateral branch of government ... The courts can't make a law."

Huckabee compared the marriage cases before the court to the 1857 Dred Scott decision that said African-Americans could not be citizens. "Abraham Lincoln refused to adhere to that," he said, "because he said it wasn't a just law."

— Sarah Blackwill