For days now, the national media has treated Mike Huckabee as a third wheel, the extra man on a two-person contest between John McCain and Mitt Romney. “The problem we have had to fight over the last week and a half is every major media pundit saying it’s a two man race,” says Chip Saltsman, Huckabee’s campaign manager. But as the early results come in from Super Tuesday’s voting, the two-person narrative sure looks shaky in the South, the Republican Party’s heartland. In Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri, three states where Romney campaigned over the last two days, the GOP electorate is roughly divided into thirds, not split down the middle.
All this has the Huckabee camp feeling pretty good. And it’s not the only reason. Since Friday, says Saltsman, the campaign has taken in about $750,000, which is peanuts for most campaigns but serious cash for the low-budget Huckabee operation. The campaign is already looking to its next challenge, says Saltsman, the coming primary and caucuses in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington State on Saturday.
In the meantime, the sniping between Romney and Huckabee has not let up. Saltsman said that the Huckabee campaign did not make a deal with McCain in West Virginia, where McCain supporters moved en masse to back Huckabee after the first ballot, delivering a stinging defeat to Romney. But that didn’t prevent him from getting in another dig. “What the Romney people can’t get over is that every time it is straight up between us and them . . . and [voters] get a chance to know both of us–we win,” Saltsman said.