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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 12:21 GMT
Jubilant Huckabee to fight on
Mike Huckabee  is the darling of social conservatives
Mike Huckabee is the darling of the Republican religious right

John McCain is not the only Republican who is pleased with his showing the morning after Super Tuesday.

Mike Huckabee has made a surprisingly strong showing among social conservatives in southern states, keeping his primary hopes alive.

Mr Huckabee won in five states, including Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and West Virginia.

At his election headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, Mr Huckabee told his jubilant supporters he would fight on.

"You know, over the past few days a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race. Well, you know what, it is, and we're in it," he said.

In a reference to the Biblical story of David and Goliath, he added: "Tonight we are making sure America understands that sometimes, one small, smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armour."

REPORTS FROM THE CAMPS

As a former Baptist minister and governor of Arkansas, his campaign speeches include frequent religious references to God and the Bible.

But he has managed to mobilise a grass roots campaign among evangelical Christians that relies on personal contact among churches to compensate for the lack of hard cash.

Battle for conservatives

Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee plays his bass guitar on the campaign trail

Mr Huckabee has been in a particularly bitter battle with Mitt Romney for the conservative Republican vote - and things were especially bitter in West Virginia, where Mr Romney was expected to win easily at a state convention before Mr Huckabee turned up.

At one stage, he criticised Mr Romney's Mormon religious beliefs as giving equal weight to God and the devil.

And during a Republican debate in Los Angeles, he attacked Mr Romney's business record - he ran the consultancy firm Bain - as bad for jobs.

"I think he managed companies and he bought and he sold and sometimes people lost their jobs," McCain said. "That's the nature of that business."

Southern populist

Mr Huckabee's populism - opposition to big business as well as big government - plays well in the south, where Republican voters are both poorer and more religious than average.

Mr Huckabee wants to eliminate all Federal income taxes and replace them with a flat sales tax of 23% - similar to VAT in the UK.

Unlike some other contenders for the Republican nomination, he has always been against abortion and gay marriage - and is not a recent convert to either position.

He plays the bass guitar - in a rock band called Capitol Offense - and does not believe in the theory of evolution.

But his social conservatism sits easily with a compassionate approach to poverty.

And his folksy humour also goes down well among his supporters, who like to back the underdog.

Winning Iowa

Mr Huckabee first impressed the religious right during the annual gathering of social conservatives in Washington at a meeting called the Family Forum.

He was the surprise choice of a straw poll of delegates to this meeting, where he outshone such former Republican front runners as Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.

This was despite the fact that he was not supported by any of the major leaders of the religious right, who believed that he did not have the money or national support to run for President.

Mr Huckabee then succeeded in mobilising his band of social conservatives in Iowa to win the Republican caucus.

He was less successful in South Carolina, where he lost narrowly to Mr McCain.

But his victories on Tuesday show that he retains the affection of one of the core constituencies of the modern Republican party - the religious right.

It is a group that Mr McCain finds difficult to appeal to, and already talk has started of an unlikely alliance between the two Republican candidates.



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