Senator John McCain has targeted much of his campaign toward military veterans and their families, as well as to moderate Republicans and independents. However, in tomorrow’s election in Florida, his fate may rest in the comparative success of one of his opponents. McCain’s chief rival in Florida, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has focused a good deal of attention on winning at least a modest amount of support among evangelical Christians. About 25% of Florida Republican voters are evangelicals, far from the 60% evangelical turnout that propelled former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to an early win in the Iowa Caucus. The question for McCain now becomes whether Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, can win enough of the evangelical vote to give McCain a narrow victory over Romney.
This is not the first time Huckabee has been looked upon as the anti-Romney candidate. Other candidates surely saw their chances bettered by Huckabee’s victory over Romney in Iowa (a sentiment evident in this November article in TIME), as well as by McCain’s victory in New Hampshire. Conversely, in South Carolina, it was in large part Romney’s presence in the race that divided the more socially conservative vote that would otherwise most likely have gone to Huckabee. Perhaps Huckabee is hoping that in indirectly aiding McCain’s campaign, he will position himself as a strong candidate for Vice President on a McCain ticket. His praise of McCain in his concession speech in South Carolina certainly points in that direction. Either way, Huckabee’s presence in the race has foiled Romney’s hopes for victory at least once before and may very well do it again.