Huckabee tells crowd he’ll boost GOP principles

By DAVE UMHOEFER
dumhoefer@journalsentinel.com

Waukesha – Mike Huckabee implored Wisconsin supporters Wednesday to defy the pundits and his Republican opponent and boost his longshot bid, which he vowed to carry all the way to the national convention.

But the former Arkansas governor, at a rally in Waukesha, also said the election was about upholding the core principles of the party, not just winning.

“It seems like someone forgot to tell you this race isn’t over,” Huckabee told several hundred supporters packed into the Country Springs Hotel. “I’m awfully glad to tell you your vote still matters.”

Huckabee, the former broadcaster and Baptist preacher, pumped up the crowd with his trademark wit, quotes from Scripture, tough stance on illegal immigration and an anti-abortion message that he said GOP front-runner John McCain could not match.

He never named the Arizona senator, instead referring only to “three U.S. senators” from a Washington culture that has turned its back on the country on a host of issues.

He hawked his sweeping tax plan, calling for energy independence within a decade and beefing up the military.

His most emphatic comments were reserved for the abortion issue, and they drew the night’s biggest ovation.

“Our value comes because God created us,” Huckabee said. “We value every single human life,” from the unborn to the elderly in nursing homes.

Of the remaining major-party candidates, only he still backs a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution.

Unless the value of all life is recognized, Huckabee said, “I don’t think we can enjoy the blessings of God.”

Huckabee will be in Wisconsin all day today and into Friday.

Impressing the voters

Scott Judson, a Waukesha man and former Libertarian candidate for state office, showed up at the rally hunting for a conservative he could support. His wife, Candy, said she was similarly undecided.

Economic and foreign policy issues are most important to him, Scott Judson said. But it looks like a weak GOP field, he said before the speech.

After Huckabee’s speech, Scott Judson said he was impressed and declared himself a Huckabee backer.

“He said all the right words tonight,” Judson said.

Judson said he disliked McCain’s opposition to tax cuts that President Bush initiated.

“I’m glad he’s staying in the race to the end,” said Dave Vrba, a Waukesha resident at the rally with his wife, Tammy, and their two young kids. “It gives people like me a voice.”

Vrba said Huckabee’s much-documented weight loss was inspirational, as was his intelligent, open style and sense of humor.

Tammy Vrba, who usually votes Democratic but is backing Huckabee, said she had heard far more specific plans from the former governor than from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on the Democratic side.

John Sperandeo, a painting contractor, drove from Kenosha to see Huckabee. “I love this guy. I believe a president should be a man of God. He openly declares it, as you should.”

Sperandeo said he thought Huckabee would continue Bush’s war on terror and hang tough in Iraq. Asked about McCain, he said: “He hasn’t shown he’s a man of God.”

Huckabee plans stops in four Wisconsin cities today. His itinerary includes a morning rally in Madison, afternoon events in La Crosse and the Wausau area, and an evening visit to Green Bay.

Huckabee said he had visited Green Bay’s Lambeau Field while campaigning for the national ticket in 2004. While on a tour, he sang the national anthem at the 50-yard line with two other governors, in a darkened stadium near midnight.

He called Lambeau a shrine.

On Friday, he is scheduled to eat breakfast at a pancake house in Milwaukee before meeting with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors.

Addressing a reporter’s question after Wednesday’s rally, Huckabee defended his decision to leave the campaign trail for 36 to 48 hours this weekend to make a paid speech to a young professional group in the Cayman Islands.

“I’m not independently wealthy,” he said.

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Huckabee’s Actually Done Some Math of His Own

LYNCHBURG, VA. — It may be miracles he’s espousing, but Mike Huckabee’s done a little math of his own. Even if he might not be able to attain 1,191 votes necessary to win, he’s banking on the possibility John McCain can’t either.

“If John McCain doesn’t get 1,191 delegates, this goes to the convention, all bets are off,” Huckabee told reporters. “And after the first ballot anybody can end up being the nominee.”

So what if Karl Rove went on CBS’ Face the Nation saying it’s implausible that Huckabee will get the numbers necessary to win the nomination. Huckabee’s response: “Karl Rove has also maxed out personal contributions to John McCain … The fact the opposing team has their cheerleaders and band blowing songs against me hardly motivates me to quit. It only motivates me to play harder.”

For Huckabee, the game is not over.

“I’m really not very persuaded by the party officials and the party establishment who come out now and are saying ‘Oh, well John McCain has 700 delegates, we oughta just quit,’” said Huckabee.

“When they wrote the rules, it said you had to have 1,191. So why did they write the rules for that game of play and now want to change the rules, that’s crazy. And so, you know, I’m playing by the rules that were written for me and I’m not trying to make them and I’m not trying to break them, so we’ll continue doing it.”

Referencing Hillary Clinton’s tearful moments in recent months, Huckabee said, “If I cried and whined every time someone ignored me in this, I’d quit a year ago. But you have to realize that in every stage of this, there’s yet to be a time when the pundits said, Huckabee’s the guy to pull this off…I’m enjoying it if no other reason than to just intimidate the daylights out of all the other people who feel like they have it figured out.”

Following what he called an “overwhelming” win in Kansas and “shocking” victory in Louisiana, Huckabee said he felt “confident” going into Virginia.

“When [your opponents] really don’t think you have a chance, they ignore you. When they say bad things about you, they fear you. So the fact that I’m being asked to leave and all these things are being said, it’s an extraordinary honor. I don’t necessarily enjoy it, but I sure appreciate it.”

As Romney Falters in Republican Race, Huckabee’s Drive Gathers Momentum

BOSTON — Even before the results were clear on Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s advisers conceded that they faced a steep climb to the nomination because of simple delegate math.

But now they also have to cope with a strong competitor to their momentum. Mr. Romney and his archrival for conservative voters, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, each won at least five states on Tuesday. Mr. Huckabee lost narrowly in Missouri to Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Speaking to supporters on Tuesday night in suburban Little Rock, Ark., Mr. Huckabee, former governor of the state, derided the view that he was to be counted out, telling a modest-size crowd that the vote had indeed turned the Republican contest into a two-person race — and that he was in it.

“Tonight, we’re proving we’re still on our feet, and much to the amazement of many, we’re getting there,” he said to cheers.

He gave no indication that his still substantial delegate deficit was a reason for pulling out.

“As long as there are still votes and delegates, there’s going to be one guy answering the bell every time there’s a new round,” Mr. Huckabee told his supporters.

Though Mr. Huckabee lacks a convincing route to the nomination, his continued presence promises to make Mr. Romney’s path much more rugged, drawing away the very conservative voters Mr. Romney had counted on to defeat Mr. McCain.

Mr. Romney’s aides tried to minimize the Huckabee effect, saying it would simply delay his progress, not prohibit it.

“Huckabee has a specific appeal on specific issues to an important sliver of the electorate,” said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney. “What Huckabee seems to be doing is still maintaining that specific appeal. What it’s done is it hasn’t stopped us. But instead it’s drawn out the primary calendar.”

Mr. Madden acknowledged that without Mr. Huckabee in the race, almost every previous nominating contest might have turned out differently.

“We’d have a greater ability to bring together these coalitions of conservatives, the economic and the social and the national security conservatives, and be the best candidate to unite the party,” Mr. Madden said.

Mr. Huckabee’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, said that the results on Tuesday had given the former Arkansas governor’s efforts a big boost and that contributions had increased.

“It gives us a lot of momentum, going forward,” Mr. Saltsman said. “I think we go forward with a lot more money than we thought we were going to have.”

He said Mr. Huckabee was not angling for second place on the Republican ticket.

“We’re still running for president,” Mr. Saltsman said. “We’re not running for vice president.”

As an example of the Romney campaign’s hurriedly revised calculations, aides had begun discussing an unlikely strategy that relies on delegates who are pledged to other candidates but who are not technically bound to them. Under that plan, the advisers envision that conservative fears continue to work against Mr. McCain, buying time and fueling a series of big victories for Mr. Romney. That would place him at a point where he has enough momentum to wrest some of the promised but not bound delegates into his column at a contested convention.

“Anybody who says it’s all going to be a mathematical exercise is wrong,” said Tom D. Rath, a senior adviser in the Romney campaign. “The math will follow the politics.”

The math, however, is daunting. Even some of the campaign’s more promising hypothetical delegate counts for how the race might shake out by Wednesday would leave them facing a serious deficit in the race to the 1,191 needed to clinch the nomination.

Under less rosy situations, Mr. Romney could be left with the almost impossible situation of having to win almost every remaining contest.

On the other hand, conservative grass-roots anger does appear to be building in some corners against Mr. McCain. Several conservative commentators have thrown their weight behind Mr. Romney.

On Tuesday, James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, released a blistering statement about Mr. McCain, saying he could not in good conscience vote for the senator.

Meanwhile, Mr. McCain has been playing up the names of conservatives who have endorsed him, including Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, whom he called “the most conservative member of the Senate.”

Mr. Romney’s advisers hope the upshot of the grass-roots anger and a divided delegate picture is that they will be able to derail at least temporarily the rush to crown Mr. McCain as the nominee.

“The calendar gets spread out enough so you can compete everywhere,” said Ben Ginsberg, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney. “And the sort of rebellion that’s taking place in the grass roots against McCain has more time to take root.”

Mike Huckabee’s Florida Primary Speech

Transcript

The following is a transcript of Mike Huckabee’s speech to supporters after the Florida primary, as provided by CQ Transcriptions via The Associated Press.

MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, folks, I wanted to tell you what we’re doing. We are rehearsing for the victory speech we’ll be able to give about Missouri next week.

(APPLAUSE) I was kind of hoping for a warm welcome in Missouri and there’s about 50-mile-an-hour winds and snow out here. I wish that I had brought the Florida weather with me today. I think we would have all enjoyed that very much.

Well, I think we’re all aware that the situation in Florida is that we’re going to be in a position looking at either third or fourth. Now, for those of you that think I should be discouraged, let me just remind you that going into tonight, we were second in delegate count and, more importantly, we’re playing all nine innings of this ballgame.

(APPLAUSE)

Even the Cardinals occasionally have a rough inning, but they know how to win championships.

What I want to express to you is next week, when we are going to be in Missouri and Oklahoma and Arkansas and Tennessee and Alabama and Georgia and all of these states where we’re leading in the polls, and we’re still going to be leading next week, we’re going to have a great opportunity to start taking it all the way home to the nomination and to the White House, and it’s going to happen a lot because of Missouri next week.

(APPLAUSE)

And we appreciate the great support we’re getting. I want to say thanks to the people of Florida. There’s going to be probably, before it’s over, maybe up to 300,000 people down there who worked their hearts out for us and those people, I can’t tell you how proud I am of them, because they had no resources.

Others have spent millions and millions of dollars. We knew that we wouldn’t have those kind of resources to play there. So we went out there and just worked with people who would come out, put their own signs out, buy their own t-shirts and hats.

A lady in Pensacola, she and her daughter put out 700 signs, just the two of them, in one day. Unbelievable. And that’s the kind of thing that’s happening across this country with our campaign that a lot of people still haven’t figured out.

And when you look at what we have done with what we have, it’s a remarkable story that is not even close to being over. In fact, we like to believe we’re just really getting started.

(APPLAUSE)

There are some great folks down there. Our chairman, Senator Daniel Webster, and our co-chairman, House Speaker Marco Rubio, and a host of great Floridians who have been extremely dedicated to our task.

I don’t want them to feel discouraged. I want them instead to feel very proud of their effort and be as half as proud of their effort as I am of them and the wonderful work that they’ve done for us.

I know it’s a little tight in this room. We really anticipated that we might have 100 people. We thought that about half of this would be enough, and we did not expect the weather to be this bad.

And I don’t know if you’re coming here because you’re escaping then cold and the heat is out in your house, but because of the weather, we’ve got to get to California tonight. So our exit will be a little quicker than we had wanted it to be, and I apologize in advance for that, but I’m sure you understand that we’ve got to be at the Reagan Library tomorrow night.

So we’re flying out as soon as we leave here, headed to California, because I’m going to be on that stage tomorrow night. I’m not sure everybody’s going to be there, but I will be.

(APPLAUSE)

And I need you here in Missouri to join with us in being a part of a wonderful volunteer army across this country who believes that it would be a better America if we did not have the IRS making it…

(APPLAUSE)

… and that believe that it would be a better America if we did stand up for human life and traditional marriage.

(APPLAUSE)

And that it would be a better America if we actually sealed our borders and became energy independent within 10 years.

And that it would be a better America if we had a country that once again believed in its future and believed that it’s not so much just about Democrats versus Republicans and the left versus the right and liberals versus conservatives, it’s about Americans building a better future for their kids and their grandkids and taking this country up and not down.

And that’s why people are with us and across this country, we’re finding homemakers and truck drivers and people who wait tables, as well as folks who work in the lines at the factories, and people who run their own business, and I want to be the president who reminds America that that small business owner out there, every day, working hard and taking a risk is the person that ought to believe that his government is going to be out there to under-gird him, not undermine his every move, and we’re going to make sure that happens in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

And you’re going to help be a part of that.

I wish we had cooked food for all of you. I bet right now you’re wishing it, too.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Fried chicken.

HUCKABEE: Fried chicken. I gave it up a few years ago. But I do know how to eat it if I ever get it, that’s right.

I want to, again, express my thanks to Ray Wagner (ph) and all of the folks here in Missouri who have been working with us, Jeff Rowe (ph) and so many others who have just helped us have great confidence that between now and seven days from now, there’s going to be something that we’ll all be shouting about.

And it won’t just be a Missouri victory, but also, that same night, there’ll be one in Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee, and there’ll be one in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and maybe a few other places that people aren’t even expecting it to happen.

Thank you folks for being here. God bless every one of you. Pray hard, work hard, get the votes out. Remember this — if they’re going to vote for me, make sure they come. If they’re not, don’t let them out of their driveway.

Thank you, folks. God bless you. Thank you.

Georgia: Huckabee 34% McCain 19% Romney 16% Alabama: Huckabee and McCain tied for first

The key is deligates, which we’re ahead on McCain. Florida is winner take all and we know we’re not in the top two so it’s smart campaigning in other states while the rest of the gang duke it out in Fla.Now for some Rasmussen poll numbers:
While John McCain and Mitt Romney are fighting for the lead in Florida’s Presidential Primary on January 29, Mike Huckabee has the lead in Georgia.The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in Georgia finds Huckabee with 34% of the vote followed by McCain at 19%, Romney with 16%, Ron Paul with 12% and Rudy Giuliani in fifth with 11%.Huckabee is viewed favorably by 70% of Likely Republican Primary Voters, McCain by 63%, Giuliani by 63%, Romney by 62%, and Paul by 25%

McCain is seen as the most electable Republican—70% believe he would be at least somewhat likely to win the White House if nominated. Fifty-nine percent (59%) believe Huckabee would have a chance to win while 55% say the same about both Giuliani and Romney. Just 12% believe Paul would have a chance to win the election if nominated.

Nationally, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee lead in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

ALABAMA

John McCain and Mike Huckabee are tied for the lead in Alabama’s Republican Presidential Primary. McCain and Huckabee each attract 27% support while Mitt Romney is a distant third at 15%. Rudy Giuliani is the choice for 8% while Ron Paul is supported by 3% and 20% are not sure.Huckabee currently attracts support from 37% of Evangelical Christians likely to participate in the Primary while McCain leads among other Protestant voters with 32%.Just 40% of the state’s Likely Primary Voters are certain they won’t change their mind before the February 5 Primary.McCain is viewed favorably by 75%, Huckabee by 71%, Giuliani by 64%, Romney by 60% and Paul by 23%.

John McCain is seen as the most electable candidate. Seventy-six percent (76%) believe that McCain would be at least somewhat likely to win the White House if nominated. Just 59% of the state’s Primary Voters are that confident about Huckabee, 56% say the same about Giuliani, and 56% hold that view of Romney. Just 12% think Paul would have a chance of winning in November if nominated.

Nationally, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee lead Obama in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll,

Fred Thompson calls it quits…

Hot off the air by El Rushbo – details to follow as they come out!

Black Religious Leaders Endorse Huckabee

(AP) Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at a lengthy memorial service Monday at King’s old church and was endorsed by several black religious leaders.

While his main GOP rivals campaigned in Florida, Huckabee sat quietly through a nearly four-hour King ceremony at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was overshadowed by fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton, who received a long ovation for his 18-minute address.

The former president acknowledged Huckabee, who did not speak. “We don’t agree on much, but he is a very good man,” Clinton told the audience of several hundred.

Huckabee said he was willing to put aside campaigning for a half day to attend the King event, which he called inspiring.

The former Arkansas governor finished second in the South Carolina Republican primary over the weekend after campaigning in which he said the federal government should stay out of disputes over display of the Confederate battle flag in the state. He said last week, “If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole, that’s what we’d do.”

The flag is a symbol of racism to some, of Southern pride to others.

After his South Carolina loss, Huckabee needs strong showings in states such as Florida, Georgia and Alabama to keep his campaign alive. He went to Orlando for a late-afternoon rally and fundraiser Monday and planned to return to Atlanta Tuesday for an anti-abortion event.

“Winning Florida would be great,” Huckabee told an Orlando airport crowd of about 100, speaking of the state’s Jan. 29 GOP primary. But winning the nomination is the bigger goal, he said. “Nobody is going to have this wrapped up by Florida,” he said.

“We plan on carrying Georgia,” Huckabee told reporters.

After leaving the King ceremony, Huckabee was endorsed by three dozen African-Americans, most of them connected to conservative religious organizations.

Huckabee’s strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage matches the “high moral values” of many black Americans, said William Owens, founder of a group called the Coalition of African American Pastors.