NAVASOTA, TX -- "Today, we reset the clock," Mike Huckabee said on the day after his second-place finish in the South Carolina GOP primary. "I woke up this morning and thought the momentum is back."
Trying to recover from his 3-point loss to John McCain, the presidential hopeful started the day by pushing back notions of total defeat. Huckabee had woken up early to fly to Texas for a fund-raiser hosted by actor and Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris. Huckabee and his wife brought their two dogs from Little Rock.
For reporters, he outlined several factors that contributed to his loss including Fred Thompson for taking away some of his votes and the snow that froze the streets of the Greenville-Spartanburg area. He resisted the notion that he had failed to prove himself as the candidate of the South, pointing out he was not the only "Southern candidate."
Asked about the next hurdle – Florida -- Huckabee went out of his way to write the political obituary of Thompson.
"Florida is a unique state because it's a winner-take-all-state and, obviously, Giuliani has put everything in Florida. I mean, the good thing for us is there is no state where we said it's this or nothing," Huckabee said.
"Thompson said it was Iowa, then South Carolina, and in both cases it hadn't happen for him. So I have to make the assumption based on what he said in his speech last night that we're only a time frame awy from when he says that its over. Its not my decision to make for him but, if he doesn't then he has to explain why he said it would be over.
Considering McCain's carryover of supporters from 2000 and the amount of money Mitt Romney had spent, Huckabee pointed out, South Carolina was "a pretty good showing for us."
"You know, no excuses. We did well. We wanted to win. But it doesn't put us out of the game by any stretch of the imagination...This is a long haul. It's still wide open"
The recent loss has transformed the strategy of winning early into a "long haul" plan of running the distance and acquiring delegates. Asked if he would consider a partnership with John McCain if the nomination came down to the convention, Hucakbee said, of course. "If he was in that position and was willing to broker things together, he can be my vice president." Huckabee said it wouldn't get to the point of a vice versa deal.
At the fund-raiser, Huckabee walked his supporters through the new game plan.
"By the time we get to Feb. 5th, there still won't be a decisive winner," he said. "The votes will be split among several of us; I still am second in the delegate count. We've surpassed many of the candidates who were supposed in the nation. What may happen, is that, when we come to Texas on March 4th, it will all be in the line in Texas"
Huckabee continued. "Now I'm going to tell you something, I'm really going to have reach down deep to swallow my Arkansas pride. And its taking everything within me to save this. But folks, Texas may just have to save this Arkansas boy and put us over the top in March. And when that happens, I'm afraid I'd be forced to stand on the stage and say, 'Go Aggies! Hook 'em Horns! And Go Bears!'"