While some GOP leaders may be looking to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to drop his long shot presidential bid, the candidate appears set to stay in the race — even popping up on Saturday Night Live to poke fun at his perseverance.
Over the weekend, presumptive GOP nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain picked up 38 new delegates from Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. He now has 996 pledged delegates, 195 short of the 1,191 needed to sew up the nomination.
Huckabee, with 254 delegates pledged to him, could not achieve the required number even if he were to sweep all the remaining Republican primary contests.
In an interview with ABC affiliate KVIA Monday in Austin, Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said, “It’s over for the Republican nomination. I respect Mike, but it is time for us as a party to get behind Senator McCain.” He has called for Huckabee to drop out since the Kansas caucuses earlier this month.
But Huckabee insisted that the race was far from settled. In a WBKO interview Monday, he said, “If John McCain doesn’t get 1,191 confirmed, committed, pledged delegates, then there is no nominee officially until we get to the convention. And when we get to the convention, all bets are off and many of the delegates can do what they wish.”
But, as though to acknowledge the long odds against him, he also added, “Now it’s possible that he’ll get there. And if he does, then so be it.”
Huckabee has previously said that the only people asking him to leave the race — Perry in particular — are supporters of McCain’s campaign — not his own.
Social conservatives could help Huckabee gain an edge on McCain in the winner-take-all Texas primary next week, “Because the Texas Republican Party is controlled by social and religious conservatives who usually drive primary voting, the race between Huckabee and McCain could be closer than in other big states,” the Associated Press reported. “Polls have shown McCain ahead in Texas, but not always by large margins.
“The GOP bloc — in control since the 1990s and who created the state party’s staunchly conservative platform on issues from abortion to foreign policy — also has been at odds with Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who backed Rudy Giuliani, then McCain, and has deviated from the group on state policy issues.”
An average of polls shows Huckabee within 13 points of McCain in Texas, but Texas Congressman Ron Paul might draw votes away from him in the Lone Star State.
“An aggressive stronghold of Paul supporters in Austin has been organizing rallies and posting Paul signs for months and could cut in to any anti-McCain vote,” the AP reported.
In a parody of his staying power, the former Arkansas governor made a guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend. After explaining his position to the comedian-anchors on “Weekend Update,” Huckabee assured them that “Mike Huckabee does not overstay his welcome. When it’s time for me to go, I will know, and I will exit with class and grace.”
Playing along with the joke, he then stayed on and on at the news desk as the SNL anchors thanked him, impervious to their prompting that his segment was over and it is time to leave.
The candidate spent Monday campaigning in Rhode Island.