WASHINGTON – Texas evangelicals are planning a big push to help Mike Huckabee in the March 4 primary, and the former Arkansas governor said Tuesday he’s counting on Texas to help him stop the John McCain juggernaut and win the Republican nomination.
“Texas is very, very important to us,” Huckabee told reporters, adding that “we have a real shot in Texas because Texas is a very conservative state.”
Some Christian conservatives in the state were slow to warm to Huckabee, but as the field has narrowed, voters and opinion leaders have become more comfortable with him.
“When you look between Huckabee and McCain, the conservative choice is stark,” said Kelly Shackelford, head of the Liberty Legal Institute and a longtime Huckabee supporter, though he was quick to add that most conservatives would willingly pick McCain over a Democrat if he wins.
But for now, Shackelford said, social conservatives in Texas are “100 percent Huckabee. I don’t know anybody who’s not.”
Evangelicals have been key to Huckabee wins in the Midwest and South.
Huckabee said he’ll spend “a lot of time in Texas” before the primary, noting the four years he lived in the state, attending seminary and working for evangelist James Robison.
But as McCain edges closer to clinching the nomination, his support from the GOP establishment has exploded. Gov. Rick Perry switched after Rudy Giuliani dropped out, and Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, who had been neutral, endorsed when Mitt Romney quit. Perry even tried to persuade Huckabee to follow suit.