John McCain managed a rout against Mike Huckabee in Virginia, breaking 50% in a red state (with diminished turnout, since most Republicans realize that McCain has a lock on the nomination). While Huckabee’s getting some token protest votes, I honesty don’t understand what Huckabee is doing by the staying in the race. He can’t win, and I have trouble buying the argument that he’s delusional enough to think he can. By running against McCain he squanders the ability to be selected as Vice President. The longer he stays in, the more he seems to marginalize himself.
One the other hand, there is some sense to what Huckabee is doing—by painting himself as an alternative to McCain he can claim to represent the voice of dispossessed evangelicals. But that seems to be a claim without much merit—Huckabee is winning in contests that don’t much matter, and winning by small margins in contests with low turnouts doesn’t say much about Huckabee personally.
Huckabee seems to be burning bridges at this stage. His stubbornness in staying in the race reflects more poorly on him than a magnanimous departure—even one without an endorsement of McCain. Romney’s bowing out was tactically wise and preserves his standing as a potential future candidate. Huckabee’s insistence on running hurts his future chances, which were slim to begin with.
Ultimately, Huckabee’s proven that he’s a liability to the GOP rather than an asset. He could have been a powerful voice for the evangelical community, but the more contests he loses to McCain the more it sends the signal that McCain can win without evangelical votes. If evangelicals throw the race to the Democrats it won’t make them a stronger voice within the party, but inspire a massive backlash that hurts the interests of both evangelical voters and Republicans. Running an opposition candidacy is not a smart way of ingratiating oneself to the party that best fits your political perspective. Huckabee’s Quixotic run is long past its expiration date, and each day he draws things out the more he ends up hurting himself.
UPDATE: So far, Maryland looks like another McCain rout—the margin is above double digits. Huckabee has done well in the South, but that’s all he’s been able to manage. His campaign seems quite pointless, especially now that the major Southern contests are behind us.