Huckabee is crying foul

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is crying foul after John McCain's apparent victory in the Washington caucuses on Saturday.

Huckabee's campaign released a statement Sunday saying it will be exploring all available legal options regarding the "dubious final results." Arizona Sen. McCain was announced as the victor in the caucuses with 26 percent of the vote to Huckabee's 24 percent.

But Huckabee's campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, said Luke Esser, Washington's Republican Party chairman, chose to call the race too quickly for McCain.

Rollins said Huckabee was losing by 242 votes with 87 percent of the vote counted. He said there were another 1,500 or so votes that were apparently not counted.

"That is an outrage," Rollins said.

Rollins said the Huckabee campaign's lawyers will be on the ground in Washington soon to see why the count took so long, and why the vote-counting was stopped prematurely.

"It would be a disservice to every voter in Washington state to not pursue a full accounting of all votes cast," Rollins said. "... As I said, we are prepared to go to court, and we are also prepared to take our case all the way to the Republican National Convention in September."

Esser said Sunday evening that McCain's lead had narrowed, but only slightly. With just more than 93 percent of results in, Esser said McCain had 3,621 precinct delegates (25.4 percent) to Huckabee's 3,398 (23.8 percent) - a difference of 223 out of 14,253 elected at that point.

Late Saturday night, McCain had 3,468 precinct delegates to Huckabee's 3,226 - a difference of 242.

Esser said despite Huckabee closing the margin, he is still confident with his declaration that McCain is the winner.

"I'm even more confident now," Esser said. "These latest batch of results confirms what I said last night. It's a close race, but it's clear Sen. McCain will win the Washington state precinct caucuses.

"Had it been Gov. Huckabee with a small, but substantial lead, I would have called it that way."

The former Arkansas governor on Saturday won all 36 delegates at stake in Kansas and narrowly held on to win Louisiana's primary. He's hoping those results will give him momentum going into Tuesday's elections in Maryland and Virginia.

However, he badly trails McCain, the likely nominee, in the overall race for delegates. Some say he should even step aside as a way to help the GOP maintain resources for the general election.

Huckabee described such talk as "total nonsense."

"The Democrats haven't settled their nominee either, so for us to suddenly act like we have to all step aside and have a coronation instead of an election, that's the antithesis of everything Republicans are supposed to believe," he said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "We believe competition breeds excellence and the lack of it breeds mediocrity."

Huckabee said even he was surprised by Saturday's results. Huckabee won Kansas' delegates, but fell short of 50 percent in Louisiana, the threshold needed to claim the 20 delegates that were available. Instead, they will be awarded at a state convention next weekend.

He has pledged to stay in the race until a candidate earns the 1,191 delegates needed to secure the nomination. During one of the three Sunday talk shows he appeared on, it was noted that his prospects for getting to that magic number were virtually impossible.

"This country was built on the impossible. It's impossible that I'm still in the race. That's what most people would've said a few months ago," he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "In politics so many things can happen that can change the landscape overnight. A candidate can say something, do something, and everything can change."

He continued to deflect talk of interest in being McCain's choice for vice president.

"I'm not going to be asked. I think it's pretty evident that there would be a whole lot of people on the list long, long before me, and one of them would say 'yes,'" Huckabee said.

Told that McCain was heavily favored to win the primaries in Maryland and Virginia on Tuesday, Huckabee said he would do better than expected.

"I think we'll get a nice little bump out of what happened in Kansas," Huckabee said.

Huckabee spent part of Sunday at services at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's church in Lynchburg, Va. The candidate steered clear of politics, but was welcomed as a "dear friend" by the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, who became pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church after his father died last year.

Huckabee was escorted by Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor of Liberty University, who had endorsed him in November.


Associated Press writer Sue Lindsey contributed to this report from Lynchburg, Va.

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