TAMPA, FLA. -- While visiting a country club this morning, someone handed Mike Huckabee a golf club and asked to see his swing. The candidate, with expectations for a third or fourth place finish in Florida, humored his way through the morning routine of visiting polling stations.
"I wouldn't know which – let's see, do you hold this end, or this end?" Huckabee joked, having never played golf. "I'd be like Mitt Romney eating fried chicken."
He laughed and gasped with supporters at his own remark.
"I played putt-putt one time," Huckabee volunteered. "Does that make me a lifelong golfer?"
"Another little dig," he noted softly, smiling at the the allusion he made to Romney's claim of being a lifelong hunter after having only hunted twice.
On why preferred fishing over golfing, Huckabee said, "When you go home with a golf ball, you can't eat it…Nobody can eat a golf ball."
Someone chimed in, "You can't mount it either."
In a more serious manner, Huckabee told reporters placing within a "close distance" to Rudy Giuliani would indicate "we've had a remarkable finish here." Considering the "boatload" of money and time his opponents have devoted to the state, Huckabee said he'd come out of Florida "still on our feet."
"One of the things that hurt us was some of the networks that said we weren't here," Huckabee said, emphasizing that he'd been in Florida every day this past week. "And they gave people the impression we weren't campaigning in Florida. It's very unfortunate. It's one of those things you can't fix.
When prompted, Huckabee said he was "in many ways…surprised" by Giuliani's fall in Florida polls, calling him a "strong candidate" and "outstanding leader" in the Republican Party.
"But I believe the decision he made to not participate in the early primaries took him out of the conversation and by the time we got to Florida, people just weren't talking about him," he said.
He predicted it will take "six to eight weeks" before it becomes clear who the Republican nominee is.
From here, Huckabee flies to Missouri, one of the Southern states he will be courting between now and Feb. 5th. There, he'll receive the endorsement of over 30 legislators before watching the results of the Florida primary in St. Louis.