RICHMOND, VA. -- The crowd of about 150 booed today as Mike Huckabee described how the Washington State GOP chairman announced John McCain the winner of the state caucus with only 87% of the votes counted on Saturday night.
"I have never heard of something so outrageous in my life," Huckabee said. "Folks, this is America. And the last time I checked, you don't have an election so that a party chairman could preempt the people's vote."
With Huckabee's lawyers hoping to meet with the Republican state party representatives today, Huckabee told reporters he's asking for the process of counting ballots be monitored to verify "there hasn't been some type of clumsiness or fumbling around as to what happened to those ballots once they were actually cast."
Huckabee said "We've had a number of reports from people who were at the caucuses in Washington state with some very, very troubling kind of scenarios they painted as to what was happening. People going and being then being told they didn't need ballots, they were just working off the registration sheets. There are a lot of questions to be answered in that particular one."
Ironically, Huckabee noted, the Washington state GOP chair my have "done me an unexpected favor" but stirring up his supporters "in an unbelievable way."
"He's got my folks fired up not just in Washington state but across the country. They've never heard anything quite so outrageous. They feel like it's a poke in my eye. Not just mine."
What the state party chairman in Washington did is an example, Huckabee argued, of establishment regulars who want to call the game over. Huckabee called that an "insult to the people in the states who have yet to vote" because "what it's saying to the people of Texas and North Carolina and Ohio and Pennsylvania and many of the other states -- Nebraska -- is that we don't even need to come to your state, we don't need to bother with what you think, your positions."
Asked how he was prepared to counter the growing chorus of people backing McCain, Huckabee said they were actually hurting themselves more than they were hurting him. He said those who were calling game over were sending "a message to all the kind of people who support me that they're really not wanted. That their voices don't matter, we're not interested in hearing from you, would you please back to the back of the bus, be quiet, and not be heard from again. And I'm afraid if that happens, that will not bode well for November. They'd better be hoping I do stay around a while, because there are a lot of people out there that I think will be needed in the fall. And if they insult -- not so much me -- but if they insult the people who want this process to go on, I don't think that's a very smart move to make."
Huckabee pointed out: "If I had pulled out Friday, we wouldn't be in Virginia today, but neither would John McCain," he pointed out. "Who would be answering questions, who would be talking to the people of Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia. Nobody. And I just think, ultimately, the people ultimately lose when we have this kind of microwaved election. We ought to cook it slow."
Virginia has a large military community, so a reporter asked Huckabee how he could compete against McCain's military history. He pointed out McCain "hasn't had background as commander in chief."
"He's been in the military; I have great respect for that and I've stated it publicly," Huckabee said. "I have had experience as commander in chief, overseeing the nearly 11,000 members of the Arkansas Army and Air National Guard, watching those troops go to battle, working with them when they came back, recognizing what we were asking them to do, and dealing with them both from a state side as well as from a combat perspective. Also think its important that people look at in terms of a verteran's bill of rights -- nobody has put forth as extensive a proposal to stand by the veterans not just when we send them, but just as importantly when they come back, that we not make those who served us just to stand around and wait in line for the benefits we promised. We have a moral obligation to veterans. They've done their moral duty for us: we ought to do our moral duty for them when they come back. That hasn't always happened. And it's a major priority and I think in many ways probably the single highest thing of priorities in the federal government -- I've said often I think the first fruits of the federal treasury ought to go to those who make us free."