Mike Huckabee’s overpowering win in the Kansas caucuses equips him with a useful weapon to beat back calls for his immediate departure from the Republican race, but it won’t do anything to reverse John McCain’s overall inevitability.
Trouncing McCain in lightly-attended caucuses in a state where conservative Christians hold disproportionate sway simply represents a continuation of the pattern that has defined this G.O.P. race. Huckabee does exceedingly well in states like Kansas and Iowa and across the South, but remains incapable of making inroads in the rest of the country. With McCain only about 450 delegates shy of the Republican nomination, there are simply too many non-Southern, non-Christian conservative-dominated states left for Huckabee—or anyone else—to catch him.
The real value of today’s result for Huckabee is the boost it should give his vice-presidential prospects. With such a lopsided win—60 to 24 percent was the final count, with Ron Paul at 11 percent—Huckabee has made yet another powerful statement about the devoted support he has been able to attract from religious conservatives. Huckabee has little money and the media has declared the race all but over, and yet a big chunk of the Christian right is still flocking to the former Arkansas governor.
The more Huckabee replicates his Kansas showing in the weeks ahead, the easier it would be for McCain—who plainly thinks highly of Huckabee—to tap him for the Number Two slot, since McCain could convincingly argue that Huckabee’s presence on the ticket would be critical to motivating religious conservatives. That could help overcome objections from some vocal members of the conservative establishment (like Rush Limbaugh, for instance), who consider Huckabee unacceptable because of his economic populism.