WOODSTOCK, GA – Will John McCain lock up the nomination on Super Tuesday? Not according to Mike Huckabee.
"I think he's being a little bit optimistic about what Tuesday's going to bring," Huckabee said.
"We plan on staying in until the last bell. When I hear people say that, I don't know if it's to great this mood out there that its presumptively over. Our voters don't feel that way."
That's as far as he would go in differing with McCain at this morning's press conference.
Asked why he was more critical of Romney than McCain, Huckabee said he "appreciated" how McCain recognizes him as a "worthy competitor and not as a nuisance."
"John McCain has not suggested that somehow he has a right to the nomination and I should quit because I'm in his way."
Huckabee said, by contrast, Romney is making the "suggestion that I ought to step aside and allow him to waltz to the nomination."
"Frankly I've been a little offended."
So what if most polls show him second in the South. Huckabee plans to "win several Southern states – not just one."
For encouragement, Huckabee said he looked to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's longshot win for "encouragement." Faced with an opponent that polled "20 points ahead" and had "spent far far more money than Sonny did," Perdue became the first Republican governor of the state since Reconstruction, Huckabee pointed out.
"Nobody thought Sonny even had a chance in Georgia. And the election came in and the people of Georgia had a very different idea than all the polls and the pundits did," said Huckabee.
A good friend of Huckabee's, Perdue had already scheduled to speak at his son's church in Tennessee but had called Huckabee to express his regrets.
Confronted with his own monolithic odds, Huckabee kept to boxing analogies today. "If this is a fifteen round fight, I'm planning to go fifteen rounds. And the only way you get me out of the fifteenth round is to knock me out before we get to the fifteenth round...its either a knockout or a decision, one or the other...I've spent a lifetime fighting until the clock ended to score enough to win and I don't plan to walk off the field now."
Proposed with the idea he might finish second in the South, Huckabee said, he'd prefer to be first but if they finished ahead of Romney, he would still be "challenging" and Romney would be a "a distant third."
"That's why I think it's absurd when Romney and his people are out there suggesting…my presence is taking votes from him," Huckabee said, raising his eyebrows in a look of disbelief for the cameras.
"My push back on that was, excuse me, his being in the race is taking votes away from me. Why is it that he gets to decide who takes votes from who. A vote for me is a vote for me. There are people who are voting for me that aren't going to vote for him. Period. So this nonsense about, well, I'm taking votes from him – what a presumptuous attitude to have. Is that people who…vote for me would automatically vote for him. I think that's totally wrong."
When Huckabee arrived to the event site – a public park – Huckabee looked at the venue and said, ""Running for president is a walk in the park."
"I spent my whole life coming from the bottom to the top. I've never started at the top. I don't know what that feels like, don't know what that would be like. I know what it is to start at the bottom and move to the top and that is what this feels like. And it's a path I feel comfortable with and its a path I've tried before."
Huckabee also weighed on the Super Bowl when a reporter asked him "Giants or Pats?"
"Dallas Cowboys next year!" said Huckabee.
"When it comes to…a game with two northeastern teams, God bless them both, but I'm a Cowboys fan." Huckabee grinned. "Just gotta hope that one day: once again."