NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. -- "Well I don't think Romney and I split the conservative vote," Mike Huckabee told reporters today.
"If the true conservatives are looking for a true conservative they'll pick me. [Mitt] Romney's record is not a conservative record, his rhetoric is not a conservative record of even what he's said and what he's done."
The usually gloves-off candidate launched into sharper rhetoric today. With only one week until Super Tuesday, Huckabee also had to spend time answering reporter questions about his viability.
"This boy isn't on the ropes," Huckabee said.
"There's an old saying in the South: it isn't about the size of the dog in the fight, it's about the size of the fight in the dog and the fact is I've gotten everywhere I've ever gotten in my political life by hanging in there and fighting until the last fight."
The former Arkansas governor has not won a primary since Iowa. Earlier, Romney made the rounds on the morning news shows calling the contest for the Republican nomination as a "two-man race."
Huckabee's response: "It may be a two-person race – I'm just trying to think me and who else would be in that race."
And whether McCain is dangling the vice presidential nomination in front of him: "Well he's gotta beat me for the presidency first and he hasn't done that. So let's not count me out just yet."
Following the media availability, Huckabee attended a fundraiser that brought in more than $100,000. To the crowd, he asserted his role as the "only true conservative in the race."
"There's only one of us who hasn't had a conversion on a whole history of issues," he said, namelessly pointing to Romney.
"You will not find videotape of me denying caring about Ronald Reagan and saying that I didn't have any part of that Reagan Bush thing…as one of the candidates said not long ago."
More: "In my 10 1/2 years [as governor], the tax burden on the average Arkansan went up two-tenths of a percent. That's not much. By the way, one of the people that has been most critical of me, one of the other guys running for president, in four years as governor – by the way, he didn't run [for reelection] and there may be a reason for that - because in four years, the tax burden on his citizens grew over four percent. There's a difference."
Huckabee also raised some questions about John McCain's efficacy, criticisms he hasn't raised since Iowa.
"Now if you want to elect a president who thinks Washington has the answers, just keep one of those guys up there that's been there a while. They've had their chance. And they're nice guys, but it's time for a new generation of leaders who come from the heart of America, who understands that, for government to work, we have to work with totally new ideas."
"We can't just sit up there and hear what the boo-birds tell us we can't do. We need to take the heart and soul, the resilience and the resolve of the American people and start making sure we get some things done."