Though many national observers believe former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee faces insurmountable obstacles in his quest for the GOP presidential nomination, conservatives continue to rally around the underdog candidate, including Kansas Republicans, who chose Huckabee as the winner of their GOP caucus Saturday.
According to final results released by the state party, Huckabee had 60 percent of 19,516 votes cast, John McCain received 24 percent and Ron Paul had 11 percent. Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race Thursday, had three percent.
Huckabee’s background as a Baptist minister helped him in conservative Kansas. He supports the teaching of creationism in public schools (which has been an issue in the state), is anti-abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, and made headlines in the spring of 2007 when he revealed on stage during a presidential debate that he does not believe in evolution.
McCain put little emphasis on Kansas in the days leading up to the caucus, while Huckabee set out on a multiple-city campaign tour Friday throughout the state.
Kansas Republican executive director Christian Morgan said on Saturday that he believes both Huckabee and McCain have “equally conservative credentials” but Huckabee’s decision to campaign in the state strongly influenced voter preference Saturday.
“I think it definitely made a difference that he made a four-city tour yesterday,” Morgan said, adding that when a candidate makes the decision to campaign in the state “and ask for our vote” Kansans will “reward” that candidate.
Morgan also praised his party’s decision to hang back and hold a caucus after Feb. 5’s Super Tuesday, avoiding the “frontloading” frenzy.
“It was a great decision,” Morgan said. “We have really stood out today as somewhat of a bellwether… It’s very encouraging to see Kansas on the front pages of the newspapers and on the news networks.”
Kansas has total of 39 GOP delegates. Just as in Iowa, delegates are not actually selected in the caucuses, as this is the first step in a tiered process. Congressional district conventions will be held in the state prior to March 31 to select district delegates and a state committee will later choose the party’s at-large delegates.
Huckabee barely registered in national polls throughout the majority of 2007, but he experienced an upsurge in January, owing mainly to conservative support. He captured first place in Iowa’s Republican straw poll Jan. 3. Every other state he has won, prior to today, is Southern: his native Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Huckabee is significantly behind in the race for delegates. According to the Associated Press, Huckabee now has 198 delegates, Romney’s total is 282 and McCain has 712. GOP strategists suggest it would be all but impossible for Huckabee to win the required 1,191 delegates to secure the party’s nomination.
Huckabee reconfirmed his commitment to the race Saturday morning, speaking to conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. “Am I quitting?” Huckabee asked the audience. “Let’s get that settled right now. No. I’m not,” he continued, to shouts of support.
Huckabee has noted in recent interviews that many delegates are currently attached to Romney and therefore, Huckabee counters, they are his for the potential taking.