SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -- It's hard not interpret a campaign stop as indicative of a "last stand" when a long shot candidate for the Republican nomination visits the Alamo.
But today, in a more defiant and declarative tone than ever, Mike Huckabee stood in front of the Alamo on Santa Anna's birthday and said he would win the state. Asked about what "realistic expectations" he had here, Huckabee said, "I think we will win Texas, that's why I'm here."
As Huckabee toured the complex with his wife Janet, the tour guide spoke about the Alamo as a "transcendent story of self-sacrifice" where people pledged to "never retreat, never surrender, until relieved of their duty." Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered outside. The campaign hadn't advertised the event as a rally and there weren't even speakers for Huckabee to address the crowd.
"We don't have a sound system so there won't be a way for me to speak so that everybody can hear," Huckabee said when he came outside. "I'll do my best to make sure those of you that are hooked up to the mult box will be able to hear," referring to the sound box news cameras were plugged into. Supporters clicked away with their cell phones and cameras, straining to listen while news choppers hovered above.
"Courage is something that should mark every one of us in whatever we do," Huckabee said when asked what lessons he drew from the story of the Alamo. "You don't engage in your battles because you can anticipate you are going to win them. You engage in your battles because you believe they're right. And when you believe that what you are doing is the right thing, the outcome is less important than it is that you put in every moment and every ounce of energy into it
"When it becomes nothing more than the politics of the election and not the principles, then we've lost more than the election, we've lost our national soul," Huckabee said.
If, for Huckabee, outcome was less important than righteousness, it certainly was not the case for reporters. One of them asked Huckabee: assuming you don't do well in Texas or Ohio, will you continue to campaign?
"That's not an assumption I'm prepared to make," Huckabee said. "I assume I will win Texas."
Huckabee faces long odds in winning over the Lone Star State. The most recent polls show Huckabee trailing McCain by double digits. The governor of Texas has personally asked Huckabee to drop out of the race, and many members of the Republican Party have loudly thrown their support behind McCain.
When a journalist noted that the Democrats were holding a debate tonight while there was none planned for the Republicans in the near future, Huckabee said he thought debates should continue.
"I think it's non-Republican and not American to shut off the discussion and the debate in the process of an election. And the one thing that can happen is the people of Texas have a chance to force and insist that their voices be heard by getting in their votes on March the 4th. When that happens, then they will have made a statement to the rest of America that the election isn't over until Texas says it's over."