Huckabee's faith is not in the numbers

The former Arkansas governor believes his campaign is still relevant, despite what the math says.

Published February 28, 2008 5:40PM (EST)

Mike Huckabee is still holding out for that miracle.

One of two remaining opponents of John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination (the Ron Paul Revolution is still chugging along, too), Huckabee told reporters this morning he still didn't see any reason to drop out of the race -- even though it's mathematically impossible for him to knab enough delegates to win, let alone catch up to McCain in the delegate count.

"I've always said it depends on the delegate count, and until somebody has captured 1,191 pledged delegates that's required to be the nominee, there's still a contest going on," the former Arkansas governor insisted.

By one count, McCain has 1,019 delegates today, to Huckabee's 254. But Mitt Romney, who dropped out after getting beaten all over the map on Super Tuesday, has told his 272 delegates to back McCain. (Rudy Giuliani made a whopping contribution, instructing his one delegate to do the same). That would be enough to put McCain over the top on the first ballot at the Republican convention if Romney's delegates followed his wishes. (There is a theory floating around -- which I've never heard Huckabee aides explicitly reject or denounce -- that says Huckabee is staying in at least until he wins more delegates than Romney did.)

Regardless of the math, Huckabee said he wanted to give voters in Texas, Ohio and other states a chance to have a say. So far, he argued, McCain's wins have come from enemy territory. "A lot of Senator McCain's delegates have come from big states, but not Republican states," he said, pointing to New York, California and New Jersey. "These are not going to be the states that will make a difference for a Republican running for president come November."

McCain's ongoing legal battle with federal campaign officials over whether he's in or out of a public matching fund is also giving Huckabee fodder.

"One reason I felt it was necessary to stay in this race is because it hasn’t been all determined," he said. "There is a question as to whether (McCain's) campaign is going to be able to even be active from now until September ... We're not going to try to just push something beyond reason, but there's still the possibility that he doesn't get those delegates, and it goes to the convention."

Still, McCain could clinch the nomination with big wins in all four states voting Tuesday.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz. Mike Huckabee