RICHMOND, Va. -- Former GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee exhorted Virginia Republicans to rally votes for their governor's race this fall. And if that doesn't work, well, flatten the Democrats' tires and keep 'em home.
He was joking ... right?
The ex-Arkansas governor made the remark Monday at an event for presumptive GOP nominee Bob McDonnell in Tazewell County, Va. Video posted on YouTube shows Huckabee and the crowd chuckling at his seemingly facetious laugh line.
But former Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe isn't laughing. In a media conference call Thursday, the current Virginia gubernatorial candidate said denying people the right to vote is "not a laughing matter."
Huckabee, grinning, told supporters they had two Election Day duties.
"One, get all those people who are going to vote for Bob out to the polls and vote. If they're not going to vote for Bob, you have another job. Let the air out of their tires and do not let them out of their driveway on Election Day," Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, said with a wide grin as rising laughter is heard on the video. "Keep 'em home. Do the Lord's work, my friend."
Huckabee, through a spokesman Thursday, ridiculed McAuliffe for taking his remarks seriously.
"As someone who served as a governor for 10 years, I can say (that) if these are the type of things Terry McAuliffe worries about and make him break down and cry, then he won't last 10 days as governor much less four years," Huckabee said in a written, one-sentence response to an Associated Press inquiry.
State Democrats also took him to task Thursday for exploiting Virginia's regional differences by portraying residents of northern Virginia's Washington, D.C., suburbs as adversaries of people in rural areas, where the GOP is strongest.
"... There's going to be some folks up there near the Beltway, and I need to let you know ... they aren't necessarily thinking the same way folks like you and me think," Huckabee drawled.
A Democratic operative with a video camera recorded the remarks.
Washington's closest suburbs, Arlington and Alexandria, are longtime Democratic redoubts. Fairfax County has split its loyalties between Democrats and Republicans over the years. But since 2005, the once thoroughly Republican counties of Prince William and Loudoun have backed Democrats in statewide elections.
In October, a senior adviser to John McCain's presidential bid made a similar slap at affluent, largely white-collar northern Virginia in a live interview on MSNBC. Nancy Pfotenhauer said Democrats moving out of the District of Columbia had taken over the state's most populous region.
"And that's really what you see there. But the rest of the state, real Virginia, if you will, I think will be very responsive to Sen. McCain's message," Pfotenhauer said.
In November, Barack Obama became the first Democrat in 44 years to win Virginia in a presidential race.