JEFFERSON CITY — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Tuesday that he must win Missouri's primary next week if he is to have a chance at the Republican nomination for president.
After winning the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee has lagged behind Republicans Mitt Romney or John McCain in subsequent states' primaries. To regain momentum, Huckabee said, he must do well in the Southern and Midwestern states, particularly Missouri, that are holding party primaries and caucuses on Feb. 5.
With 58 delegates at stake, Missouri is the third biggest prize for Republicans on Super Tuesday behind California and New York. Adding to Missouri's clout is the fact that Republicans use a winner-take-all approach in the state, as opposed to allotting delegates based on congressional districts or a proportion of the total vote. New York uses a similar approach, but California does not.
"Next week, with the Southern states and many of the Midwest states that are in play, we have an opportunity to truly be on our way toward the nomination and White House," Huckabee told about 200 people at a capital city campaign stop. "But let me be very clear, we need Missouri to do it."
Huckabee highlighted his proposal to replace the federal income tax with what he calls a "fair tax," a 23 percent national sales tax. He also asserted Missouri was a "perfect fit" for his candidacy because of its commonalities with Arkansas, its anti-abortion voting tendencies, low taxes and limited view of government. Huckabee, a Baptist minister, drew an occasional "Amen" from the Jefferson City crowd.
While governor of Arkansas, Huckabee refused to sign a disaster-relief bill in 1997 because legislators had defined natural disasters as "acts of God." Lawmakers eventually bowed to his wishes and used the words "natural causes" in the bill barring insurance companies from canceling or not renewing policies because of claims arising from such tragedies.
Huckabee defended that decision when asked about it Tuesday. He said the real acts of God were visible when neighbors helped each other after deadly tornadoes.
"If we're going to keep God out of our law and we're not going to allow him to be given credit for the good things that happen, we should not blame him for the destructive things that happen, and it's as simple as that," Huckabee said.
Among those in the audience was Jerry Thompson, 71, a Korean War Army veteran from Jefferson City, who said before Huckabee's speech that he was wavering between Huckabee and McCain. Afterward, Thompson said: "He's very persuasive, genuinely. It moves me a little bit off center towards him."