DALLAS â Mike Huckabee, the bass-playing Baptist preacher and former governor of Arkansas, dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday night and endorsed Senator John McCain as the partyâs candidate in November.
Though Mr. Huckabee has known for some time that he could not win the nomination, he had pledged to stay in the race until Mr. McCain accumulated the 1,191 delegates he needed to cinch the candidacy, remaining as one of two Republican challengers to Mr. McCain; the other is Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who is still in the race.
His wife, Janet, standing by his side, Mr. Huckabee spoke shortly after the polls closed, addressing a bank of television cameras and a crowd of about 150 supporters, including families, ministers and a few people who wandered in from a business convention down the hall.
âLadies and gentlemen,â he said, âI called Senator McCain a few moments ago. It looks pretty apparent tonight that he will, in fact, achieve 1,191 delegates to become the Republican nominee for our party.
âI extended to him not only my congratulations, but my commitment to him and to the party to do everything possible to unite our party, but more importantly to unite our country, so that we can be the best nation we can be,â he said.
He praised Mr. McCain as an honorable man who ran an honorable campaign. But he also said he was proud of his own campaign, which started out with little attention and few resources and ended with some attention though still bare-bones â just 30 aides, he said â and still underfinanced.
Quoting from the Apostle Paul, Mr. Huckabee said: âWeâve kept the faith. And that for me has been the most important goal of all. Iâd rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place.â
Huckabee took a cue from that “Saturday Night Live” appearance in ceding the floor. Evangelicals now will have to decide between a Republican nominee they’re not thrilled about, though one who is a social conservative in many ways, and either a liberal Christian who is accused of being a Muslim or a Methodist believed to be the Antichrist.
An online poll today at ChristianityToday.com showed 31 percent of the 1,900 participants supporting Huckabee while McCain and Obama each received 26 percent support and Hillary Clinton got 8 percent. The real question, though, is who will she vote for?