WASHINGTON – Mike Huckabee trounced John McCain in Kansas’ caucuses Saturday, their first head-to-head contest, and told fellow conservatives he was in the Republican presidential race to stay.
“I didn’t major in math,” the former Arkansas governor told a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them.”
The Baptist minister-turned-politician won some 60 percent to McCain’s 24 percent and captured all 36 of the delegates at stake in Kansas on Saturday. Texas Rep. Ron Paul had 11 percent.
“It sends a pretty significant signal to John McCain that he’s got a lot of work to do to get significant factions of the Republican Party solidly behind him,” said Kris Kobach, state Republican Party chairman.
Huckabee also won the Louisiana primary but fell short of 50 percent, the threshold necessary to pocket the 20 delegates that were available. Instead, they will be awarded at a state convention next weekend.
McCain was denied the party nomination in 2000 when he lost to George W. Bush. Seen as the front-runner early in the campaign, McCain struggled last summer, short on cash and losing staff. He rebounded with wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, and the bigger prizes on Super Tuesday. He all but sealed the nomination on Thursday when chief rival Mitt Romney bowed out.
McCain has a solid lead in the delegate race with 719 to Huckabee’s 234. A total of 1,191 delegates is needed to secure the GOP nomination.
Huckabee scoffed at the idea that he should quit. He said Republican leaders “ought to be begging me to stay in” because competition toughens the party and without him Republicans will get no attention in the presidential race as long as Obama and Clinton are fighting it out.