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News Conference with Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R), Republican Presidential Candidate


Location: Little Rock, AR

News Conference with Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R), Republican Presidential Candidate

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MR. HUCKABEE: Well, thank you very much. (Inaudible) -- I had the opportunity to talk with Senator McCain, and I called and congratulated him on the win in Virginia. Obviously I had hoped that he would be calling me this evening, and for a while it looked like he, in fact, might. But when the urban votes came in, it wasn't enough to close the margin.

But just a few days ago, in fact, Friday, before we went into Virginia to campaign, a lot of the polls were showing us down over 30 points. It closed to within 11 or 12 yesterday. And so we feel like, you know, if we'd had a few more days, maybe we could have closed the gap all the way.

What it does show, though, is that there's still a real sense in the Republican Party of a desire to have a choice, a desire to make sure that the voters who want a solid conservative, absolutely pro- life candidate, still exist. And I think that's what the results in Virginia clearly indicate.

Tomorrow we'll be going on to Wisconsin for that primary up there next Tuesday. And then from there we have a schedule that we're building for Texas and Ohio and some of the other states that'll be coming up real soon after that.

So, you know, the next several weeks are going to be the very intense weeks when a lot of delegates are at stake, and a lot of it will be decided as far as the long-term impact of where this process is going. But one thing that we have continually said, and I'm going to reiterate tonight, that the nomination is not secured until somebody has 1,191 delegates. That has not yet happened. And we're still continuing to work and to give voters in these states a choice.

I think, if anything that we're doing is important, it's recognizing that the people in the states who have not yet had their elections have as much right to an election as all of these folks who have front-loaded for either Super Tuesday or prior to that. And if there are these calls to say, "Let's just call it off," well, that's a disservice to the people in Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Nebraska and other states and territories who have yet to have that opportunity to vote.

So we march on. Every time we win, we're ecstatic. When we don't win, we're disappointed, but we're not knocked out. And we continue to believe that every day provides a new opportunity for us to keep the message going, show the contrast, and hopefully give people in the Republican Party a cause to be for, and also to keep it, though, in a respectful and, I think, the kind of tone and tenor that has, I would like to think, brought some honor to the process.

So let me take a few of your questions and we'll go from there.

Q Governor, tonight concludes Senator McCain's -- (inaudible) -- said that it is mathematically impossible for Governor Huckabee to secure the nomination. When you said the other day that you majored in miracles, not math, did anyone on your campaign staff -- (inaudible) -- delegate math?

MR. HUCKABEE: I mean, we understand, in terms of the conventional process, barring something that could happen along the way in the campaign for Senator McCain, or if he doesn't acquire enough delegates. That's really the possibility, that it could go to the convention.

So, yeah, I hear all the things that are said, but, you know, still I go back to this fact. I just can't say it loudly or maybe emphatically enough. You've got to have 1,191. And while it may be mathematically impossible to see how it could play out right now, I know this. Right now nobody has the 1,191 delegates, and therefore it would be a little premature to quit until the game has actually come to a conclusion.

And I also remind everybody that it was the Republican National Committee who created the rules and the process and said, "Here's what it takes to be the nominee." Nobody's made it to that point yet. And so I've not been one who believes that you leave the field because it's gotten difficult. You stay and you keep playing until the last second of the clock has sounded.

Q Governor, are you concerned at all that you might be in some way harming your chances, your good standing in the party, your future prospects for elective office if at some point, despite not anyone having 1,191 just yet, many come to perceive you as someone who's doing this more out of self-interest than the greater good of the party?

MR. HUCKABEE: Why would they think that? Why would they think that it was self-interest instead of the greater good of the party?

Q Because I believe that there are some in the party who think that it's important for the party to become unified, and you face perhaps an uphill battle against the Democrats in November, and some are making the argument that it might be in the party's interest to come together sooner rather than later.

MR. HUCKABEE: I've heard that from some of McCain's supporters. I have not heard that from any officials in the party who have come out and publicly said that. And, first of all, I would strongly disagree with that in that it really would be an admission of extraordinary weakness in our party if we could not handle within our party having a real election.

I thought that's the whole point of politics was that you have elections. You have choices. You have candidates who take points of view. And if you can't weather that storm, then how will you weather the storm against a Democrat opponent who's going to come out of their primary battle-tested?

I think quite the opposite is true. The worst thing that could happen to the Republican eventual nominee is to go months without having the sharpness of a contest. And I really feel that it's a great disservice to the party, even a disservice to Senator McCain, should he be the nominee, if he were to suddenly have nothing to do for the next several months but wait until the Democrats pick a nominee to lead their party.

So that to me sounds like the kind of thing that people say to make it easy, not necessarily because it's right.

Q Governor, you mentioned that some of Senator McCain's supporters have suggested perhaps that you step aside. This is the first time I believe you've spoken with Senator McCain since last Tuesday. Can you tell us a little bit about your conversation?

MR. HUCKABEE: Oh, it was a very pleasant one. I mean, again, we have always had and I think will continue to have nothing but an extraordinarily warm and cordial relationship. There's no reason that we shouldn't. We don't see ourselves -- at least I don't, and I don't think he does either -- as rivals or so much opponents, certainly not enemies. But I think we're both seeking the same job.

Certainly he would love for me to be defeated.

I understand that. And he knows I feel the same way. But you've not heard either of us speak ill of each other, make personal attacks, engage in attacks about distorting one's record. And we've not run attack ads on each other. And I have frankly no thought that that'll happen on either side. I really don't.

Q Did he ask you to step aside?

MR. HUCKABEE: Of course not. No. I mean, he wouldn't do that. He's too much of a gentleman, and he's got more honor than to do something as ridiculous and as absurd. You would never, ever, to me, have the audacity to ask your opponent to step aside. That would be beneath his dignity. And I've got more respect for him as a human being to even imagine that he would consider such a thing. He would not.

Q Governor, if the Democrats on the other side, if they kind of rally around one candidate and that dynamic changes, and it's just you and him still fighting it out here, doesn't that hurt McCain's chances, let's say? And wouldn't that handicap him? Does that change the dynamic on this side?

MR. HUCKABEE: Why don't you ask me that if it happens. It hasn't happened yet. There's still a big battle going on over there. And again, I think competition breeds excellence. I think the lack of competition is what creates mediocrity and complacency. That's not what we need in the Republican Party. We need to be energized as a party. We don't need to be in any way diminished with our spirits. And we're not going to be enhanced by suddenly taking the game off the field.

Q Governor, you're going to be spending the next two days in Wisconsin. You've talked a lot about possibly doing well in Texas. Where else will you be spending your time and resources over the coming weeks?

MR. HUCKABEE: North Carolina, Ohio. There may be other states. You know, we haven't ruled out going to Vermont or Rhode Island, for example. But, you know, every day we take a look at the calendar. We take a look at the map. We take a look at poll numbers and see, you know, where we have some strength and where we think that there may be some -- the demographics of the state and just where we think that there's an opportunity for us to engage. So even the things that we're deciding on today, those are subject to change.

Q And as you look at the map and go through the polls and these demographics, what do you see ahead in those states that suggests the race could be different going forward from how it's been looking backwards?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, for example, Texas is a very conservative state. Republicans there are strongly pro-life. They also truly, because they're a border state, they really understand the need to secure the border. And I think the position that I have to secure the border and to do it within a time certain is very appealing to the conservatives of Texas. They strongly would want Bush tax cuts to be permanent, appreciate that I supported them from the beginning.

I think also the people of Texas would, I think, generally feel that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act has really hurt the political process. It didn't help it. And those are issues, I think, that would be probably very important to people in Texas.

Q Haven't those issues been on the table? Those issues have been on the table.

MR. HUCKABEE: But Texas hasn't been on the table. They haven't voted yet. So do we give them a choice or not? I think we give them a choice. We could just say, "Okay, game over." All those folks in Texas -- and there are a bunch of them -- lots of Republicans in Texas. And for us just to suddenly say, "I know you guys have sort of waited patiently as all these other states have taken their turn to vote, but we're not even going to throw ballots out there for you because we don't want you to get a chance" -- let them speak. And if they overwhelmingly say something in that election, then we'll all abide by the results.

But surely our party has the kind of capacity that we can weather an election. And one of the things that I find interesting, on one hand you have the pundits saying that I'm really not a factor, and on the other hand, boy, I'm going to really make it hard for John McCain. Well, it can't be both. You've got to pick one or the other.

So pick which one it is -- if I'm a significant factor that's really messing it up for him, or am I an absolute insignificant irritation and just sort of an aside, but I can't be both things at the same time. That's not possible. So I think, you know, we still provide an option for people to vote.

Q Can you win the nomination?

MR. HUCKABEE: Certainly. Nobody's won it yet, but I guess as long as the game is still going and nobody has gone to the locker room with a trophy, it's still possible to do it. It may have to happen at a convention. It may not be that, you know, the numbers could work. I may have to win 100 percent of every delegate going forward. Who knows? But, you know, until it happens, we don't know what could happen.

Q Tell us about your tie.

MR. HUCKABEE: What's that?

Q The tie. Are those elephants?

MR. HUCKABEE: Of course they are, (Finn ?). This is a Republican deal, man. You don't think I'm wearing donkeys on this tie, do you? I may even let you borrow it if you're really nice to me. This would look good on you.

Q Governor, have you had a chance to look at the breakdown of the poll data? Is there anything that --

MR. HUCKABEE: For Virginia?

Q Yeah.

MR. HUCKABEE: What I did see, we did exceptionally well in the rural areas, and he really was strongest in the urban and northern Virginia areas, which is what we expected. You've got to remember, I've never lived a day in that region -- not in D.C. or Virginia or Maryland. And he's spent the last 25 years there, so he's a pretty known quantity and I'm not.

I think we did pretty darn well for a person that, you know, has never had a D.C. address. So once again, nobody thought we would even be in play, and for the first couple of hours the talk was "Oh, my. This is a real race." That's what we said it was going to be.

Thank you very much. Thanks.

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