Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee met with conservative Christian leader James Dobson Friday as he vied to pick up the Colorado delegates pledged to Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race.
Huckabee’s visit comes two weeks after Dobson endorsed him for president.
“Personally it was a great encouragement,” Huckabee said of the endorsement. “I think it also was an extraordinary boost for our campaign because Dr. Dobson is seen as such a true national leader when it comes to issues of life, marriage and family.”
Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister and a former governor of Arkansas. His campaign has been kept alive in part by support from conservative Christians who don’t want to back Arizona Senator John McCain.
Appearing without Dobson at a podium on a lawn outside the campus of Focus on the Family, Huckabee declined to describe what he and his friend of 14 years discussed.
Huckabee, who was in Colorado Springs to speak Friday night to the conservative group, Leadership Program of the Rockies, said the meeting was “personal” in nature and “not a meeting that I was having with him in his capacity as the leader of Focus on the Family.”
Although Huckabee said Dobson’s backing has helped him, he doubts the Focus on the Family founder will be campaigning for him.
“I think it would be very difficult for him to go on the campaign trail,” Huckabee said. “I did not ask for that, and I would not expect that.”
Through a spokesman, Dobson also declined to describe the conversation and cautioned against reading into why he didn’t appear with Huckabee.
“This was a long-planned private conversation between two friends and Dr. Dobson wanted to keep it that way,” said Gary Schneeberger, a Dobson spokesman. “It’s certainly not meant to temper his support of the governor.”
He said Dobson would not comment on a private meeting. Schneeberger also said Dobson was sensitive to IRS rules that restrict tax-exempt groups like Focus on the Family from getting involved in politics. When Dobson endorses political candidates, he emphasizes he is speaking as an individual and not for the group.
Many political observers believe Huckabee, with 254 delegates, doesn’t have a chance of catching McCain, who has 958 delegates of the 1,191 needed to win the nomination. Romney, who dropped out of the race earlier this month after picking up 280 delegates, has endorsed McCain.
That hasn’t discouraged Huckabee.
“There’s 46 delegates at stake in Colorado that could be mine,” Huckabee told dozens of cheering supporters.
Dick Wadhams, Colorado chair of the Republican Party, said that that the Feb. 5 caucus — where Huckabee came in third after Romney and McCain — was a “preference poll” and that delegates are still up for grabs.
Huckabee also commented about a New York Times article Thursday alleging that McCain’s staffers were concerned about a relationship with a female lobbyist during his first presidential run eight years ago. McCain and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, have denied they had a romantic relationship.
“My only experience with (McCain) as a fellow candidate the past 14 months is a positive one,” Huckabee said. “I see him as a man of integrity. He’s denied the allegations in the New York Times article. I have no reason to doubt him.”
Mimi Hailes, 50, of Colorado Springs has been working on Huckabee’s campaign in Colorado and it was thrill to meet him and see him person.
“I told him that I’ve been praying for him and that I pray for him every day,” Hailes said. “I’m very hopeful that he’s still going to be our candidate.”