Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Huckabee Shows Steel, Driving His Point Home

Michael Hirsh for NEWSWEEK reports:
Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who had fallen far off the pace since his upset victory in Iowa, turned into a major power in his own right, winning the key Southern states of Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas. Huckabee's strong showing in the Bible Belt—a region that has become a must-win for Republican candidates in general elections—demonstrated not only that his candidacy is very much alive but that McCain still has a lot of work to do in winning over both his party's conservative base and the presidency.

Huckabee drove the point home, declaring himself McCain's main primary challenger heading into the later primary contests. "I've got to say that Mitt Romney was right about one thing: this is a two-man race," Huckabee said. "He was just wrong about who the other man in the race was. It's me, not him." Despite the good news coming out of the South, Huckabee still got thumped in the rest of the country, in states like New York and New Jersey and Arizona, demonstrating that his appeal may not extend nationally. But the campaign didn't see that as a problem. Huckabee didn't spend resources and time in winner-take-all states in the Northeast, and aides pointed to Florida as an example of his bang-for-the-buck mentality. "In Florida Romney spent $8 million and we spent zero, and we tied with him with zero delegates," said Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman. Huckabee plans to take Wednesday off before starting a full-on blitz in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington in preparation for Saturday's contests. From there it's on to the Potomac region for primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. By then the Huckabee folks hope it will truly be a two-man race. "It's time for Romney to get out," said Saltsman.

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