APPLETON, WIS. -- Former President George H.W. Bush may have endorsed John McCain, but Mike Huckabee is not flinching.
"Believe me, everybody likes endorsements," Huckabee said to the crowd of about 150 who had braved the windblown terrains of central Wisconsin to see him. "But this isn't about endorsements, this is about principles."
It was all he mentioned of Bush 41's endorsement in his speech, but it was a follow up to the press conference avail that preceded the event, where journalists peppered him with questions on the matter.
A reporter said critics were calling the former president's endorsement a death knell to his campaign, to which Huckabee responded, "Well, does his voice count more than the millions of Republicans across country? Blue-collar Republicans that maybe don't have the platform he has -- do their votes not matter?"
"Do the people who have been coming to our rallies suddenly just say, 'Whup, someone else from the party establishment has spoken. Let's just give up and not be heard from.' That's not how elections are supposed to work. I'd like to think our party certainly is capable of having an ongoing election process. Those are the rules we are supposed to be playing by. And if somebody had told us we're supposed to all leave the field because some of the people in the party in high positions said so, they should have made up those rules at the beginning when we all started rather than halfway through the game."
I asked if Huckabee was saying this was an effort by former President Bush to push him out of the race.
"No," Huckabee responded. "Did you hear me say that?"
"Just wanted to clarify," I said.
"No, I didn't say that," Huckabee said, ending the matter.
Later, somebody asked how much of an effect the endorsement would have on his campaign in Texas, a state Huckabee has all-but-said is crucial to the campaign's survival.
Huckabee pointed out he had lived in the state for four years, his oldest son having been born there.
"One thing I know about Texans -- they are very independent people," he said. "They are not people who just say follow the leader because someone told them they ought to. I sense that it will not have a huge impact on rank and file Republicans, the people who support me. Because people who support me know why they do. They're not just listening for a cue from some endorsement. What they're wanting to know is, do I support the human life amendment. They want to know that I'm actually going to take a stand and give leadership to changing the tax system. They want to believe someone's going to be a leader who has executive experience and all the endorsements in the world won't sway those folks for whom it is about the principles, not the politicians, that will dictate how they vote."