Huck has just pulled up short in South Carolina, polling 30 percent to John McCain’s 33 with 97 percent of precincts reporting. Many analysts said that a second place finish in SC would effectively end Huck’s campaign – if he can’t take a conservative Southern state suited to his evangelical ethos, what can he take? – but the candidate disagrees. He’s staying in.
The concession speech had two points of emphasis. One was congratulations to John McCain as well as congratulations to himself for running clean campaigns in a notoriously dirty state – strange considering that Huck’s proxies were running up a hell of a phone bill with aggressive robocalling. The second focused on populist economic issues. Not a word about faith. Apparently Huckabee is still calling out to voters beyond his evangelical base.
Signs are that they’re not listening. According to this exit poll, 60 percent of SC’s voters identified as evangelicals, but Huckabee failed to get a majority of them yet again – 43 percent. He only polled 14 percent among those who were non-evangelical. My calculations show that around 85 percent of Huckabee voters were evangelical. Through five contests he’s proven incapable of expanding his base, which spells doom for him the way the race stands now.
For now the entire Republican field, with the exception of Duncan Hunter, is staying in. Even in the event that someone dropped out, though, I’m not sure that Huckabee would be able to siphon off that many supporters. There’s been some speculation that Thompson hurt Huckabee in SC, but it may not be as simple as that. Thompson polled evenly among evangelicals and non-evangelicals. Huckabee could expect some of the evangelical portion of that, but it’s not clear how much. From what I know of Thompson voters they’re for Reagan-conservative values – which is not exactly Huck’s brand of conservatism.