MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he is challenging the results of this weekend's caucuses in Washington State. With 87 percent of precincts reporting, Senator John McCain was leading by a little more than 1 percent, and the party chairman declared McCain the winner.
The state GOP says the count is continuing. Mike Huckabee won the other two contests this weekend in Kansas and Louisiana, and when I spoke with Huckabee today, he said he wants to know the final total in Washington before he cedes that one to John McCain.
Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Presidential Candidate): we may have ended up winning up three out of three. But it was certainly a stunning win and I don't think anybody expect those two in there with that kind of margin.
NORRIS: So, you're saying that your challenging the vote count in Washington because you think that those additional votes could put you over the top.
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, the point is we don't know.
NORRIS: In overall, I'm interested in your read on what actually happened in Washington State, as many people vote against John McCain or actually voted for another candidate as voted for him. How do you interpret that, going forward? What do you see that?
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, I think a lot of people are beginning to realize that the delegates that he has won are delegates from states that are not Republican states. They're not going to decide in favor of a Republican in November like New York and Delaware, Connecticut. And the states that I won, are the states that are going to be critical to a Republican winning. So, we're just a little bit premature to go ahead and join hands and sing "Kumbaya" and build a campfire because he doesn't have 1,191 delegates yet.
NORRIS: Is John McCain the presumptive nominee?
Mr. HUCKABEE: He's not until he gets 1,191 delegates. And, you know, I have some real heartburn when I hear these party bosses get up and say that, well, it's all over and we might as well just circle around John McCain. When he gets 1,191 delegates, I'll circle with him. But until then, I'm still in this thing.
NORRIS: You're in this thing but if you look at the hard numbers, it seems like it's mathematically impossible for you to win enough delegates to actually win the delegation. So one of the big questions now is what is your objective? What do you want from the party?
Mr. HUCKABEE: It's not mathematically impossible; it's mathematically challenging, and I'll be the first to admit that. But the other option is we could go to the convention. And at the convention, everything could change. Every time there has been a process that went all the way to the convention, the Republican ended up winning the overall election.
NORRIS: You know, when you listen to party officials, they applaud your success. They almost seem to be saying couldn't happen to a nicer guy but they also within the same breath note that your success comes at John McCain's expense, that when you do well in a state like Kansas, a state like Washington, it's a bit of an embarrassment to the person who is supposed to be the presumptive nominee.
Mr. HUCKABEE: It's very offensive to me when I hear somebody that's supposed to be a party official act as if we're all supposed to allow John McCain to get the votes without having to win them.
And secondly, the worst thing that could happen to John McCain is for him to just sort of become the nominee and go dart from the stage, which is exactly what would happen for the next several months. And all the focus should be on the Democrats who are still not yet deciding their candidate.
And interestingly, the only people who are asking me to drop out are McCain supporters. I mean, people like Karl Rove who gave money to McCain; Ken Mhelman who supports John McCain; Rick Perry from Texas who has endorsed John McCain. Not one supporter for me has come and asked me to drop out.
NORRIS: Karl Rove, Rick Perry, have they picked up the phone? Are they calling you directly?
Mr. HUCKABEE: Some have, some haven't, but all it does is (unintelligible)…
NORRIS: What do they say to you when they call? I'm sorry to interrupt you.
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, I mean it's a matter of, you know…
NORRIS: But I'm just curious about that conversation.
Mr. HUCKABEE: …they're McCain supporters so they are trying to say that for the good of the party, I can't win. Why would I, you know, stay in there? And frankly, I highly resent that somebody supporting another candidate would think they even have the audacious right to make that request.
NORRIS: How many of these calls are you getting - calls, e-mails? Is there a campaign for it to drive you out of the race?
Mr. HUCKABEE: I don't think I (unintelligible). No. I mean, I think that if there is, most people have better sense than to try a personally contact maybe because they know that this just fires me up.
NORRIS: Now, I don't - I want to make sure that I don't mischaracterize this -did Karl Rove call you directly…
Mr. HUCKABEE: No. He did not.
NORRIS: …and asked you to drop out of the race?
Mr. HUCKABEE: He did not.
NORRIS: So you - how?
Mr. HUCKABEE: He simply said it on television. I think he was on maybe one of the (unintelligible) "Face the Nation" yesterday.
NORRIS: Looking ahead on the calendar, where do you think you're positioned to win, going ahead?
Mr. HUCKABEE: I think, you know, we're - can play anywhere. Certainly, you know, we're optimistic about Virginia. Who knows? I realize D.C. and Maryland and even Virginia are areas that are a lot closer to where John McCain has lived the last 25 or six years than it is to me. But I think in Texas and in Ohio and other places across this country, North Carolina, Nebraska, we stand a chance to do quite well. Mississippi is another state I would expect this to win. Those are states - and I want to remind you - those are states that are going to be critical to a person winning the presidency as a Republican.
NORRIS: And if John McCain does reach that magic number, what do you then? What's next for you?
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, if he reaches the magic number, then I will accept that the people have decided in our party that he'll be our nominee.
NORRIS: Mike Huckabee, thank you very much for speaking with us.
Mr. HUCKABEE: You bet. Thank you.
NORRIS: That was former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. He spoke to us from Newport News, Virginia.
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