Huckabee challenges WA caucus results

If you look at the CNN state results, it does look strange: With only a couple of percentage points separating McCain and Huckabee and only 87% counted, the state GOP stopped counting and declared McCain the winner (Ron Paul, by the way, finally broke 20%). The number of votes separating them is only about 240. But that’s caucus votes, not primary votes, meaning that an actual open vote would probably separate them by more than that 240.

In any case, Huckabee is challenging the result and calling for a full investigation of the goings on in Washington state.

Washington State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser announced late Saturday that McCain had won the 2008 Republican caucuses in the state with 87.2 percent of precincts reporting. McCain had 25.5 percent over Huckabee’s 23.7 percent in that race.

Esser issued a statement congratulating McCain on a “hard-fought win,” and Huckabee on a “strong second-place finish.”

Ed Rollins, Huckabee campaign chairman, directly challenged Esser’s move, saying the count was incomplete because the other 12.8 percent of precincts could tip the scales since McCain was beating Huckabee by only a couple hundred votes.

“The chairman showed very bad judgment in stopping the voting last night when announcing John McCain had won, when there was less than a 200-vote margin between the two candidates,” Rollins told FOX News in an exclusive interview. “You never announce a vote, in my 40 years of politics, I have never know anybody to announce a vote count before the vote is counted.”

Rollins was quick to say that the campaign was not accusing the McCain camp of anything untoward, and the issue lies solely with Esser’s call. He added that campaign attorneys have attempted to contact Esser’s lawyers but had not yet received a return phone call.The final results came during the night after the race had been declared too close to call and Washington GOP election officials decided to call it a night. Esser said a final tally would not come until Monday.

Tucked into the bottom of that story is this little nugget.

A look at exit polling from Louisiana shows that McCain remains very unpopular among Republicans who consider themselves very conservative. Speaking to “FOX News Sunday,” President Bush said McCain may have to work harder.

There’s talk out there that putting Huckabee on the ticket with McCain will help shore up the conservative South for him. The problem is, if McCain needs Huckabee’s help in the South, his nomination is in big trouble. The South is the GOP’s base and bastion. And whatever help Huckabee gives McCain south of the Mason-Dixon might be offset by Huckabee’s lack of popularity north of it and out in the more libertarian West. We may end up with a ticket known more for where it’s weak than where it’s strong.