What happened
Former GOP contender Mitt Romney endorsed one-time rival John McCain, further damaging current runner-up Mike Huckabee’s already slim chances to win the Republican nomination. McCain’s campaign is urging Huckabee to give up his underdog bid so Republicans can unite before facing the Democrats in November, but Huckabee reaffirmed his commitment to stay in the race at least until McCain secures the 1,191 delegates to lock up the Republican nomination. “I may get beat, but I’m not going to quit,” Huckabee said. “It’s just not in my nature.” (FOX News)
What the commentators said
There are three main reasons for Huckabee to stay in, said Byron York in National Review Online. He “can afford to keep going, he thinks he can do well in Texas,” and “as the sole recipient of votes from conservatives unhappy with McCain, his support has actually increased.” But even though he “says in public” that “he didn’t major in math, he majored in miracles,” his campaign privately displays a “sense of pragmatism” about the delegate numbers. Even if he miraculously wins the Texas primary, his proverbial “last stand,” Huckabee can’t “reach the magic 1,191-delegate number.”
Forget Texas—Virginia was his last stand, said Mike Madden in Salon. “Huckabee gave it a shot,” but not only did he lose, he also proved he “drags only a certain slice of voters away from McCain”—ultra-conservatives and evangelical Christians. “So what, exactly, is Mike Huckabee doing still hanging around a race he can’t win?” If he’s angling for McCain’s VP slot, “you’d think embarrassing the front-runner by beating him last weekend would be a bad way to go about it.” Some think “he’s angling for a Fox News TV show,” and in that case “the free airtime can’t hurt.” But maybe the “real explanation” is that “he’s having fun.” And as long as the race against McCain “stays friendly,” McCain can’t see “much harm in Huckabee’s staying around a little longer.”
Friendly or not, said Jonathan Martin in Politico, “Huck is now openly pushing the notion of taking his race to the convention.” There’s no way he can “mathematically get 1,191 delegates before then,” so at least until Texas, that’s about “the only card—aside from talking up ‘miracles’—he can play.” Sure, talk of staying in may just be “bluster” to “raise coin,” but this race has been so “unpredictable” so far, maybe a miracle isn’t out of the question.
Actually, “a Huckabee win is not ‘mathematically impossible,’” said Jon Bruner in Forbes.com. “Mathematics is, in fact, the only field in which a Huckabee win would be possible.” Instead, it is just “extremely unlikely.” Even if Romney’s delegates went to Huckabee, he’d still be “almost 300 delegates behind McCain.” Barring a highly improbable “massive surge,” it appears that “Huckabee can’t possibly campaign hard enough in the remaining states to win.”
Still, “why should he drop out?” said Patrick Buchanan in The Miami Herald. Romney may have caved, but real conservatives should no longer “meekly” submit to “party leadership” in the name of unity. What has that gotten us? A huge deficit, stagnant wages, fleeing manufacturing jobs, broken borders, and a futile war in “Mesopotamia.” No wonder “the Reagan Democrats are going home.” Huckabee can “do himself a world of good by piling up votes and delegates,” but more importantly, he “has a chance to serve his party and country by putting on the table the issues that neither party is addressing.” He’s staying in? “Good for Huck,” and good for us.