WASHINGTON – Although Mike Huckabee called it quits Tuesday night as a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, his advisers were still busy Wednesday building a conservative coalition that could play an instrumental role in a future run for the White House.
His daughter and national field director, Sarah Huckabee, said it was possible that he'd take another shot at the U.S. presidency.
"He's a young guy. We learned a lot over the last few years," she said, according to The Washington Post. "A lot depends on what happens in 2008, but if there's an opportunity and he felt it was a good time to do it, I think he would."
But for now, Huckabee plans to use his influence with the GOP's conservative wing to help presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and Republican congressional candidates gain support from conservative Christian voters in the fall.
Huckabee during his concession speech Tuesday night urged his supporters to back McCain.
But in spite of Huckabee's support, McCain still faces an uphill battle trying to woo conservative Christians, who hold a grudge against him for criticizing some of its leaders in 2004 and for being "too moderate" on certain values issues.
"Despite his exit, no one can deny how influential Mike Huckabee was in championing values issues in this crucial race," praised Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council.
"While yesterday was clearly a victory for McCain, the Arizona senator acknowledged that his work is just beginning," Perkins highlighted. "To succeed in his bid for the White House, McCain must consolidate his support among conservatives, including social conservatives, which will not happen just because he is the Republican nominee."
Perkins pointed out that a Barna poll last month showed only 45 percent of evangelicals would vote for a Republican candidate if the general election were held on the day they were asked, down from 85 percent of evangelicals who voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
"John McCain will have to convince social conservatives that their issues matter and that he can talk about them as a candidate and act upon them as president," the FRC president stated.
Meanwhile, other conservative activists are demanding McCain ask Huckabee to be his running mate as proof of his commitment to values voters issues. Conservative radio talk show host Janet Folger is broadcasting the phone number of McCain's campaign office so listeners can call and demand Huckabee to be on the fall ticket.
Folger said McCain "needs" to pick Huckabee to make sure conservative Christians will head to the polls in November. Some conservatives have threatened to not vote if McCain is the Republican nominee, saying both Democratic candidates are too liberal even for consideration.
On Huckabee's part, he has not ruled out running as McCain's vice president, although he has repeatedly said he doubts McCain would make him the offer.
Whatever lies in the political future of Huckabee, he is now considered by many within and outside the Christian community as the new face of the evangelical movement – a nicer and more open-minded Christian who reflects the new evangelical center.