The Corner

What Huckabee Will Do

I have a new story up on Mike Huckabee’s plans to stay in the GOP race – for a little while.  Huckabee keeps saying that no one has gotten to 1,191 delegates, implying that he’s in it all the way:

That’s what Huckabee says in public. But inside the Huckabee camp these days, there is a distinct sense of pragmatism about the campaign’s prospects. The time is coming – probably just after the March 4 primary in Texas – when Huckabee, if he cannot produce any more victories, will leave the Republican presidential race.

On Saturday morning, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, I asked a top campaign official what Huckabee would do if he lost Saturday’s contests in Kansas, Louisiana, and Washington State, and then failed to win any of the Potomac primary races on February 12. “We’ll have to talk about it Tuesday night,” he told me. And what would that discussion involve? “We’ll talk about the reasons you stay in versus the reasons you get out. There are no decisions made of, ‘If this happens, we’ll do that, or if that happens, we’ll do this.’ We’ll do what we’ve always done, which is to take a look at this race every couple of days and see where we are.”

At that point, the official wasn’t even guaranteeing that Huckabee would stay in the race past Tuesday. But as it turned out, Huckabee scored big wins Saturday in Kansas and Louisiana, and almost beat McCain in Washington State. The victories gave him a rationale to keep going past the Potomac primaries, whatever happened. But now that he has lost all three of those races, Huckabee is back to answering questions about why he stays in.

Watch for the pressure to increase on Huckabee, starting this morning:

But what if Huckabee were able to win Texas? Even then, he still would not be able to amass enough delegates to beat McCain. In the last few days, Huckabee has conceded that he cannot reach the magic 1,191-delegate number; he simply argues that McCain isn’t there yet, so the campaign should go on. Last week,, the McCain camp was quite diplomatic and patient about Huckabee’s position. But last night, campaign manager Rick Davis sent out a somewhat impatiently-worded memo emphasizing just how impossible Huckabee’s situation is.

“The results from tonight’s primary elections in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., make it mathematically impossible for Governor Huckabee to secure the Republican nomination for president,” Davis wrote. “He now needs 950 delegates to secure the required 1,191. But in the remaining contests there are only 774 delegates available. He would need to win 123 percent of remaining delegates.”

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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