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Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at a post-primary campaign rally at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Saturday in Columbia, S.C.
Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at a post-primary campaign rally at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Saturday in Columbia, S.C. Eric Thayer/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he thought he would win Saturday's GOP primary in South Carolina, but his narrow loss to Arizona Sen. John McCain doesn't mean he is out of the picture.
The former Arkansas governor finished with 30 percent of the vote, behind McCain's 33 percent.
"We're disappointed," Huckabee tells Andrea Seabrook. "The fact is, Fred Thompson, in the race, didn't even get close to us, but he took just enough away from us that probably kept us from the margin. And that, plus the fact that it snowed in Greenville and Spartanburg, where we had a lot of our votes, didn't help us. But it is what it is. You know, we were very tight near the top."
Huckabee says he might benefit if Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, decides to drop out of the race.
"I think those votes aren't monolithic to go anywhere, but a lot of the votes that I believe he took from us in South Carolina would have definitely been ours," he says. "It appeared [Saturday night] that Fred was in essence bowing out, but he hasn't made that announcement official. Although both in Iowa — where he said he was in there for a do or die, and he died but he stayed in — and then he said South Carolina was do or die and he died. And I have to assume at some point that, you know, he really does have to consider it not going somewhere."
Huckabee says his proposal to replace the current tax system with a national sales tax — called the "fair tax" — is gaining traction with voters.
"I think a lot of our appeal comes from my talking about abolishing of the IRS — the fact that we would completely transform our tax system," he says. "People see the economy in trouble; they know that America is in a big problem right now. And it needs a big idea to fix it, not little piddling ideas that many of the candidates are putting forward."
As he turns his focus to the Florida primary later this month and the Super Tuesday primaries of Feb. 5, Huckabee says he's not worried about competing against candidates with more money.
"I think when people look at how much money some of these candidates have spent to get so little for it, that's the story. It's not, gosh, how have we gotten here; it's how have they not gotten further?" he says. "Is their message so weak that they've spent that kind of money, and for it, they really have not garnered a level of support commensurate with the funds having been spent."