Huckabee Quits Presidential Race

Conservative Republican longshot posed formidable challenge.

ByABC News
February 12, 2008, 4:29 PM

March 4, 2008— -- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has conceded the Republican nomination to rival Senator John McCain, R-Ariz.

But there is no doubt the longshot-turned-contender left his mark on the GOP race.

Calling his White House bid the "journey of a lifetime", Huckabee spoke Tuesday night from Irving, TX commending McCain on an "honorable campaign" and emphasizing his commitment to the Republican party in the fight to the November election.

"We stayed in until the race was over. We kept the faith, that for me has been the most important goal of all," Huckabee said, standing with his wife on stage at the Four Seasons Hotel. " I'd rather lose the election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place."

McCain visits President Bush at the White House Wednesday.

Huckabee's brand of social conservatism, combined with his strong core support among evangelicals, and a frugal campaign budget, left party rivals scrambling to defend their conservative credentials.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were all, at least in part, victims of Huckabee's surprise success.

Ultimately, the former Arkansas governor won by losing, attracting significant blocs of the GOP base in state races despite McCain's significant delegate lead, the latter due in part to the party's largely winner-take-all delegate distribution.

Huckabee's folksy appeal earned him clout within the party as a force to be reckoned with. Still, he has said he is not interested in a third-party run for the White House and, presidential aspirations aside, that he would rather go on a "rock tour with Amy Winehouse" than enter the Arkansas Senate race.

Huckabee has also downplayed his place in the '08 veepstakes, telling a reporter this February "I don't think Sen. McCain would select me anyway...I think that it's a little almost off the chart to think that he would end up selecting me."

Huckabee's meteoric rise from political obscurity to GOP threat began with his second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll an unofficial but closely watched exercise within the Republican campaign cycle back in August 2007, which signalled his potential to stage a GOP upset.

The momentum that followed Huckabee out of the straw poll finish complete with cable news bookings, network morning show interviews, and print media outlets clamoring to ask him "how" bumped Huckabee from second-tier to rising star on the nation's political radar.

Through the almost five full months from the Iowa Straw Poll until any votes were cast in the state's January caucuses, Huckabee continued his presidential campaign, run on a shoestring budget. He spent time at home in Little Rock and flew to first-in-the-nation contest states for long weekends when the crowds were more substantial.

But in November, a CBS News/New York Times poll changed everything.

Showing Huckabee within striking distance of then-Iowa front-runner Mitt Romney, Huckabee's campaign quickened its pace, tailed by the national media, which had previously covered him from afar.

By mid-December, Huckabee had become the bona fide front-runner in Iowa, overtaking Romney in the state's pre-caucus polling.