AMARILLO, Texas Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, trailing in delegates by a 4-to-1 margin, pleaded with Texas Republicans not to count him out in his White House bid.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, the former Arkansas governor said winning next week's Texas primary was crucial to his campaign.
A longshot victory here would "really stir up the dynamics" of the race before Republican National Committee delegates name a nominee at their convention in September, he said.
"Everyone keeps saying 'well, it's over, it's all done.' We know it isn't," Huckabee said. "Texas is the largest Republican state in America. How can it be over if Texas hasn't even voted?"
Texas' primary is March 4 with 140 delegates up for grabs. Huckabee trails frontrunner John McCain in the race for delegates, 257 to 1,019. A total of 1,191 delegates are needed to win the nomination.
Huckabee, 52, was in Amarillo to raise money, joined by ardent supporter and confidant, martial-arts legend Chuck Norris.
Huckabee acknowledged his three-digit deficit to McCain, but pooh-poohed pundit speculation that he is privately seeking to become the Arizona senator's running mate. Instead, he said he hoped his political record against abortion and same-sex marriage would resonate with staunch conservatives more than polls currently indicate.
"People need to go vote their principle Tuesday, not the politics of the pundits," Huckabee said. "The establishment shouldn't be dictating what the people of Texas do when they go to vote."
David Rausch, associate political science professor at West Texas A & M University, dismissed theories that Huckabee was angling for the No. 2 spot but rather that he is thinking of 2012.
"He's trying to get some name recognition for the next go-round," Rausch said.
Staying in the hunt may also allow Huckabee to exert some influence over how the RNC lays out its platform this summer, Rauch said.
Amarillo voter Sam Izard, 56, conceded Huckabee has a lot of ground to make up but believes he still can be the Republican's choice later this year.
He heard Huckabee preach several months ago at The Church at Quail Creek and said the candidate's message hasn't wavered throughout the campaign.
Izard said Huckabee's pro-life and low-tax agendas mirrored his own and set him apart from McCain, who he described as "too liberal."
"After hearing (Huckabee) ... I told my wife, 'that's someone I can vote for,'" he said.
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