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January 22, 2008

Hard Times For Huckabee, Again

The loss in South Carolina has had a big impact on Mike Huckabee -- and the reporters covering his campaign. His team has begun to cut back on spending, and the traveling press corps now has to find its own travel arrangements. They may not need to follow him to Florida, either:

Battling to stay competitive after his weekend loss in South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is taking new steps to save money, including no longer scheduling planes and buses for journalists trying to cover his presidential campaign.

Huckabee said he will continue to campaign in Florida on a shoestring budget, but added that he may pull out of the state before its Jan. 29 Republican primary if his prospects look dim.

"I don't want to abandon Florida yet," Huckabee told reporters Monday on a late-night flight from Orlando to Atlanta, where he planned to campaign Tuesday. "We have not come to the conclusion that Florida is out of play."

He said his campaign will evaluate the Florida situation day by day. Meanwhile, he said, he will find time to campaign in several other southern states holding primaries on Feb. 5.

"We really need to conserve as much as we can" for TV and radio ads in those states, Huckabee said in a 36-minute news conference at the back of his press charter. He said he is airing no ads in Florida, one of the nation's largest and costliest states for campaigns.

Of course, Huckabee started on a shoestring and managed to parlay it into a major campaign for a few months. One big win might restart the campaign. At this point, though, the path to the nomination appears murky, and the contributors have begun looking at other campaigns for their electability.

Huckabee would almost have to sweep the South in order to have any impact after February 5th. Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia all go to the polls on Super Tuesday, as does Huckabee's native Arkansas. That accounts for 209 delegates, and if Huckabee can win a significant chunk of them, he could help keep the race open and his candidacy alive. He would have to hope for a brokered convention and an opportunity to use his leverage to wangle the nomination.

Even for a Southerner, that's a tall order. He lost South Carolina, a state where a Southerner and an evangelical should have done better, and he had money to spend there. If Fred stays in to February 5th, he's likely to win Tennessee, taking a good portion of that state's 55 delegates out of play. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney aren't likely to resonate in Alabama and Georgia, but John McCain probably will.

If this turns into a brokered convention with four candidates bringing slates of delegates, Huckabee may have a chance to win the nomination - but it's not likely, and he will have no money left at that point. He has to hope for a miracle on February 5th, but if it didn't arrive in South Carolina, it's probably not coming.


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