To hear Mike Huckabee tell it, he is not staying in the presidential race to boost his profile, or out of vanity, or just because he has nothing better to do; it’s because he has principles and convictions that won’t let him step aside and refuses to bow to the “smug, elitist, arrogant attitude” of those in the GOP who feel he should step aside and allow the coronation of John McCain as the nominee. As Huckabee repeatedly states, he is staying in the until McCain has won the 1,191 delegates he needs to lock up the nomination, even though it is mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win the nomination himself and his only hope is for a brokered convention.
While McCain has won the last five Republican primaries by an average of 55% to 29% and continues to inch closer to the magic number, Huckabee continues to insist that he will not drop out,, claiming that he is playing an important role by ensuring that voices of the GOP’s right-wing voters “aren’t shut out” and vowing to soldier on so that Republican voters can be given a “choice”:
“One of the questions I get asked everyday…is why do you keep going? And I know that’s a question [to which] people try to come up with their own answers. And some have even suggested the reason I keep going is maybe just some ego trip. Let me assure you,” Huckabee said to reporters, “if it were ego, my ego doesn’t enjoy getting these kind of evenings where we don’t win the primary elections.”
“So, it’s gotta be something other than that, and it is. It’s about convictions, it’s about principles that I dearly, dearly believe in. It’s about believing that the message of pro life – standing firm and unflinchingly for a human life amendment – is an important discussion we must have in our Republican party and frankly must have in our nation.”
“We’re going to keep marching on, not just because of nothing else to do, but primarily because there is a message that still needs to be heard in this country, there are people who have a right to vote, there are states who have patiently waited while other states have gone in front of them, and they should have as much of a voice the process of selecting the nominee as have the states that win early.”
Of course, when voters have such a “choice” and continue to “choose” your opponent by overwhelming margins, most politicians see the writing on the wall and drop out. But not Huckabee, who apparently believes that he must remain in the race because McCain is so insufficiently conservative that he is endangering the Republican Party as a whole:
Those principles include giving as many voters as possible the chance to vote for a candidate with positions he feels are at odds with John McCain. “[McCain] does not support for example the human life amendment. He does support human embryonic stem cell research and I know our positions on immigration are significantly different,” listed Huckabee, adding, “doesn’t mean that his positions are bad, it means they’re different, and elections are about choices.”
“Not staying in the race hurts the GOP,” he said. “It makes it like we’re so weak that we can’t have a debate and discussion. If this party is so completely incapable of discussing the issues that matter deeply to Republicans, then I’m not its problem. Its problem is that it doesn’t have a message that it can run on and it wants to circle the wagons and act like it’s all well. It’s not all well.”
Of course, the GOP is not really having a debate or discussion about these issues at all – Huckabee is talking about them while the McCain campaign is all but ignoring him on his way to winning primary after primary.
So the question remains: if Huckabee needs to stay in the race in order to save the Republican Party from itself and its voters from the dangers of a McCain nomination, will he actually endorse McCain once he has officially secured the nomination?
Undoubtedly he will, since most of this is just self-serving rhetoric designed to make his continue presence in the race seem like a principled stand. But if we are to take his rhetoric at face value, it stands to reason that if Huckabee believes that he must stay in the race because McCain does not represent the Republican Party’s core “principles,” then, as the self-proclaimed representative of those very principles, he would be expected to stand on them and refuse to endorse McCain at all.
Either McCain is so unacceptable a Republican nominee that Huckabee feels he cannot in good conscience simply stand aside (in which case, how could he ever endorse him?) or McCain is a perfectly acceptable candidate that Huckabee will be only too happy to endorse (in which case, why is he still in the race?)