March 4 (Bloomberg) — Mike Huckabee, the Republican presidential candidate who struggled to find a second act after his surprise win in Iowa, ended his campaign tonight, conceding the nomination to John McCain.
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, exited the race after he failed to win any of the four states voting today, and television networks announced that McCain had amassed enough delegates to capture the Republican nomination.
“One of the things we’ll be able to say is we fought the good fight and we finished the race,” Huckabee told supporters in Irving, Texas.
Huckabee said he had called McCain and said he and his campaign staff would help the Arizona senator. His departure ends the Republican presidential race, allowing the party to coalesce behind a single candidate while the Democratic nomination remains in doubt.
“We’ll be working on doing everything we can to help Senator McCain and to help our party,” Huckabee said. “There are many battles that we need not just to fight, we need to win for our country’s sake and our future’s sake.”
Huckabee, 52, had won eight states, including the first-in- the-nation Iowa caucuses, largely through the strength of his appeal to evangelical Christians.
His announcement caps a campaign in which he went from afterthought to front-runner and back again. Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher with a penchant for using humor, was largely ignored until shortly before Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses. There, religious and socially conservative voters helped him defeat former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Huckabee, unable to raise the tens of millions of dollars needed to run a national campaign, struggled to replicate that success elsewhere. He finished third in New Hampshire, behind McCain and Romney, and then bypassed the subsequent contests to focus on South Carolina. He lost to McCain there by three points, and said he might have won had former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson not also been in the race.
After placing fourth in Florida, Huckabee looked to rejuvenate his campaign by doing well in the southern, midwestern and rural states voting on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. He won five of those states. Romney, who tried to nudge Huckabee out of the race, ended up dropping out himself. Huckabee, meanwhile, declared it a two-man race.
McCain continued racking up victories that gave him an all- but-insurmountable lead among delegates. Huckabee rejected calls from within his own party to concede, saying he wanted to ensure that conservatives continued to have a voice in the contest.
“The foot soldiers of the Republican Party, the conservatives in the Republican Party, need to make sure their voices aren’t shut out,” Huckabee said in a Feb. 20 interview with Bloomberg Television.
Money was always an obstacle for his campaign. He raised $13 million through Jan. 31. Democrat Barack Obama raised more than that in a single month.
Still, Huckabee defied predictions that such as cash- strapped campaign could not become a factor in the race, Republican pollster Whit Ayres said.
“He did more with less than any other presidential candidate in recent memory,” Ayres said. “He demonstrates, along with Barack Obama, the extraordinary importance of being a superb speaker to being a successful politician.”