mccain wins, huckabee goes

Posted on March 5, 2008

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It is finally official.

John McCain has won enough pledged delegates to clinch the Republican party’s presidential nomination and he will be a tough opponent for the eventual Democratic nominee, be it Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

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Reuters photo

Though his party has not been behind him unequivocally, especially not the evangelical and conservative wings of the party, McCain was able to draw on more moderate Republicans, as well as independents, to battle his way towards the party nomination.

His task ahead is perhaps even harder than his slog to the nomination. He has to first win over unconvinced Republican voters, and then inspire them to go to the polls for him in November. He would have to do so much more to turn out the vote, given how fired up the Democrats are this year and are likely to flock to the polls.

McCain also has to walk the fine line of wooing the Republicans who are still not sold on him, but in a manner that would not alienate the constituency that has always rooted for him, independent voters.

McCain faces another potential liability. He is scheduled to meet Bush at the White House later today to collect an endorsement from the president. While it could be helpful in McCain’s quest to gain more Republican support, he has to bear in mind that perceptions of being too close to Bush could be detrimental, given how unpopular Bush is with the general electorate.

Money will continue to be another issue. McCain has not enjoyed the kind of donations that the Democratic contenders had been able to command and with the nomination wrapped up, McCain could concentrate on getting supporters to open their checkbooks.

McCain’s only other serious opponent, Mike Huckabee, conceded the impossibility of his quest and dropped out, calling McCain an honorable person and threw his support behind the Vietnam War veteran.

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NYT photo

It has been quite a run for Huckabee. Viewed not only as an outside chance, the former governor of Arkansas was simultaneously bogged down by insufficient cash and little political staff expertise. His most famous endorsement came from action star Chuck Norris.

But even without anyone giving him a chance, Huckabee’s was a campaign that could, outlasting and outperforming other so-called more viable candidates like Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. Huckabee surprised many by winning a string of Southern states, which is more than could be said of some of his more illustrious fellow candidates.

Huckabee’s never-say-die attitude, coupled with his rapier wit and folksy personality drew a sizable number to his side and inspired many young evangelicals to volunteer for his campaign by building a movement, Huck’s Army, for the former Baptist preacher.

Let’s hope this engaging personality does not leave politics. While his platform, such as getting rid of the Internal Revenue Service, are way too out-there, Huckabee displays a common touch and an ability to connect with voters that many politician would kill for. Talk has it that he could soon be coming to a small screen near you.

Huckabee is still only 52, a young age in politics. With the name recognition he has garnered this time, he would definitely be able to take another shot in 2012 if a Democrat wins this year. If not, there’s always 2016.

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