LITTLE ROCK, ARK. -- There wasn't any expectation for a win. Mike Huckabee didn't stay in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. to make the usual rounds to polling sites this morning and instead hopped on a plane bound for his home state. He retreated with close family and friends to a private dinner club to watch the results.
After it was clear there was no chance of winning Virginia - the only state where his campaign figured he might have a possibility of winning - a notably muted Huckabee appeared at the news conference to announce he had called John McCain to congratulate him on his victory.
"Obviously I had hoped he would be calling me this evening and for a while, it looked like he in fact might," he said. "But when the urban votes came in, it wasn't enough to close the margin."
Early data showed Huckabee leading by a few percentage points but he soon fell almost ten points behind.
"We march on," Huckabee said at the press conference. "Every time we win, we're ecstatic. Every time we don't win, we're disappointed but we're not knocked out."
Huckabee insisted that he would not drop out of the race until a candidate secured 1,191 delegates. Until then, he said, he would be the "solid conservative" in the race; exit poll results from Virginia showed his support from self-identified Conservative voters outpacing that for McCain.
McCain's communications director Jill Hazelbaker said it was "mathematically impossible" for Huckabee to secure the 1,191 delegates after today's results.
Huckabee responded, "We understand in terms of the conventional process, barring something could happen along the way [to] the campaign with Senator McCain, or if he doesn't acquire enough delegates – that's really the possibility – that it could go to the convention...While it may be mathematically impossible to see it could play out right now, I know this: right now nobody has the 1,191 delegates and therefore it would be a little premature to quit until the game has actually come to a conclusion."
When a reporter asked if Huckabee was acting out of self-interest and against the "greater good of the party," a provoked Huckabee challenged him. "Why would they think that?" he asked not once, but twice, waiting for a response. Huckabee said he had only heard that argument from McCain supporters, not from "any officials within the party."
"It really would be an admission of extraordinary weakness in our party if we could not handle…having a real election. I thought that was the whole point of politics, that you have elections.
Huckabee called the next several weeks "very intense weeks where a lot of delegates are at stake and a lot will be decided as far as the long term impact of where this process is going." He listed North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island on the short list of states he will be campaigning. He leaves for Wisconsin tomorrow.