Saturday night, it appeared as if Mike Huckabee might pull off the unlikeliest of victories and win the Republican caucuses in Washington state. But then, with 87 percent of the vote counted, the state Republican Party chairman declared John McCain the winner and stopped the vote counting. The problem? According to Huckabee's campaign, McCain was winning by just 242 votes, and about 1,500 remained to be tallied. Now, though McCain has been all but anointed his party's nominee, Huckabee is showing few signs that he intends to go gentle into that good night, and he's putting up a fight about the results in Washington.
Sunday night, Huckabee's campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, sent this statement to reporters:
"The Huckabee campaign is deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses. It is very unfortunate that the Washington State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, chose to call the race for John McCain after only 87 percent of the vote was counted ...
"In other words, more than one in eight Evergreen State Republicans have been disenfranchised by the actions of their own party. This was an error in judgment by Mr. Esser. It was Mr. Esser's duty to oversee a fair vote-count process. Washington Republicans know, from bitter experience in the 2004 gubernatorial election, the terrible results that can come from bad ballot-counting.
"Frankly, I am disappointed in the way that Mr. Esser has handled this urgent matter. So I call upon Mr. Esser and his colleagues to cooperate fully with the Huckabee campaign-and all Republicans, everywhere, who care about honest and transparent vote-counting-to make sure that every vote is counted and that all Republicans in Washington have the chance to make their votes count. Attempts by our campaign to contact Mr. Esser have been unsuccessful. Our lawyers will be on the ground in Washington State soon, and we look forward to sitting down with Mr. Esser to evaluate this process, to see why the count took so long, and why the vote-counting was stopped prematurely.
"It would be a disservice to every voter in Washington State to not pursue a full accounting of all votes cast.
"This is not about Mike Huckabee. This is not about Senator John McCain. This is about the failings of the Washington State Republican Party. All Republicans should unite to demand an honest accounting of the votes, so that Republicans can have full confidence in the results, and full confidence in the eventual Republican nominee. As I said, we are prepared to go to court, and we are also prepared to take our case all the way to the Republican National Convention in September.
"Our cause is just. We must reemphasize the sacred American principle that all ballots be counted in a free, fair, and transparent manner."