Posted: February 4, 2008 5:59 PM
Huckabee Vows to Stay in Race, Denies Spoiler Role
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s campaign has seen a steady slide in media attention since his underdog victory in the Iowa caucuses last month, finishing third in New Hampshire and Michigan, second in South Carolina and a distant fourth in Florida. But on Monday the candidate vowed to stay in the race till the end.
“I’ll stay in until someone has 1,191 delegates,” he told the Associated Press, referring to the number of delegates needed to win the nomination at the Republican convention. “A year ago, nobody said I’d still be here. Look who’s still on his feet.”
Huckabee has spent the last week aggressively campaigning in the southern states that will vote on Feb. 5 — Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and his home state of Arkansas. And some analysts believe that the former Baptist preacher could siphon votes from former Gov. Mitt Romney in those states.
“Huckabee’s presence in the race hurts Romney a lot more than it hurts McCain, because I think that Romney would be the second choice for the majority of evangelicals who are going to vote for Huckabee,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy agency, told the Boston Globe.
Romney’s campaign has been playing up that angle, telling conservative voters that a vote for Huckabee will help hand the election to Ariz. Sen. John McCain.
Evangelicals who vote for Huckabee “are basically saying, ‘We’re going to give the conservative vote … we’re going to divide it in half, give some to Mike Huckabee, give some to Mitt Romney,” Romney told a Missouri television station.
A Wednesday survey by the polling firm Insider Advantage showed McCain leading in Georgia with 35 percent, with Romney and Huckabee tied at 24 percent. In Tennessee, McCain led with 33 percent, Huckabee took 25 percent and Romney trailed with 18 percent.
But some analysts predict Huckabee’s overall influence on the GOP race will be minimal.
“He won’t have a significant impact in most states,” GOP strategist Eddie Mahe told CBSNews.com.
Over the weekend, Huckabee rejected in campaign speeches the spoiler role that Romney’s campaign was trying to assign him.
“Let me explain something to Mr. Romney and his supporters,” he told a crowd in Huntsville, Ala., the Washington Post reported. “It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. And there’s still a lot of fight left in this dog.”