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Huckabee: A Vindication in Little Rock

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By Jose Antonio Vargas
11:08 p.m.LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- And then Mike took the stage.

Sans guitar, but with a wide, beaming smile, Mike Huckabee addressed a relatively small but raucous group of supporters a few minutes ago.

"Over the past few days, a lot of people have been saying, 'This is a two-man race,'" said the Baptist minister turned governor. "And you know what, it is."

So far tonight, Huckabee has won four states: West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia. And at the moment, he's leading in Tennessee and Missouri. He's behind Sen. John McCain in Oklahoma, where aides expected him to do well, but he's still comfortably ahead of Mitt Romney. Overall, Huckabee has bested Romney, who's been victorious only in Massachusetts and Utah.

"Thanks, first of all, to the wonderful people of Arkansas. We had a wonderful, wonderful win here at home. We love this state. Always have, always will. And tonight we also had a surprising, stunning victory in West Virginia," Huckabee said, with his wife, Janet, by his side. "Today has been a day when the people have spoken. And today people across this country said, 'Yes, we heard what the pundits said, but this is our vote.' For all those people who have made sacrifices to help us get here, I want to say thank you."

In the back of the room, amid "We Love Mike" signs and "Huckabee for President" buttons, Huckabee's extended family was in a jovial mood, eyes glued to the two projection screens showing CNN. Huckabee's niece Katie Harris, 21, was surrounded by friends, all members of Huckabee's student group at Ouachita Baptist University, his alma mater. His older sister, Pat Harris, was still a little antsy. "I hope we win more states," said Harris, a middle school English teacher. "You'll never want to underestimate my little brother."

Then the music blared "Celebration."

10:19 p.m.LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Supporters here are saying, "Mike is back!"

Indeed. It's been a good night so far for the former Arkansas governor, racking up victories in three states -- with a lead in Missouri and a tight three-way race in Tennessee. We're sitting here in the press area, where some reporters are growing a little antsy. Many were prepared to write Huckabee's campaign obit. "A top-tier VP candidate," a magazine reporter told The Trail. A producer for a national cable channel chimed in, "This was suppose to be a death watch, not a resurrection."

The storms have died down, and a few more dozen supporters are trickling in. A few seconds ago, the crowd became uproarious when CNN showed Huckabee in the lead. They're screaming: "We want Mike! We want Mike!"

9:37 p.m.LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- "Yesssss!" screamed a few supporters here at Clear Channel Metroplex, site of the Mike Huckabee watch party.

Huckabee, who earlier in the night won West Virginia and his home state of Arkansas, just captured Alabama, a must-win Bible Belt state for the long-shot former governor.

The party's a sparsely attended affair, as thunderstorms rolled through The Natural State, leaving highways and roads mostly deserted. (The Trail, we're happy to report, survived fierce, blinding rain showers on highway 440.) The brave supporters who made it to the Metroplex snacked on fried shrimp, chicken nuggets and brownies. There's a makeshift stage in the front of the room, between two big projection screens that show CNN. (Maybe Huckabee will play the bass guitar if he keeps racking up wins.)

A few seconds ago, a round of cheers rolled through the room as CNN showed the Huckaboom in the lead in Missouri.

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 5, 2008; 11:12 PM ET
 
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