By Will Mari, SeattlePoliticore
He took the bad news rather well.
Stanley Smith, 70, of Center, Texas, a small town some 17 miles from the Louisiana border, has been a committed fan of former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee.
But after hearing that Huckabee conceded the nomination to Sen. John McCain, Smith, a retired dentist from Pennsylvania, was circumspect.
"I think all things considered, he did very well," Smith said. "He started as an unknown and got really far."
Smith has been a long-time Huckabee supporter. Living near the border in Deep East Texas exposed him to Huckabee early on, back when he was the governor of nearby Arkansas in the late 1990s. Smith was impressed by the work Huckabee did as governor, including actions like building new roads.
But it was Huckabee's platform of social conservatism immediately appealed to him. Smith and his wife are conservative Roman Catholics who share many of the same concerns as evangelical Protestant Christians.
In Smith's case, Huckabee's positions on abortion, the role of the federal government and moral issues concerning traditional families were key.
"We see morality at an all-point low, we see crime in government ... we've lost faith with our politicians, with Congress, with senators who feed at the trough for years," he said.
"I vote on my principles: God, mother [family] and country. If you follow that, I don't think you can go far wrong," Smith added.
He feels proud to have voted for Huckabee, having cast his ballot last week in Texas' early voting. A ballot for Huckabee made the statement that evangelical and other religious conservatives still count as an important part of the electorate, Smith said.
"I believe the principles he believed in were the virtues that our country needs," he said. "I think it's time to bring some moral fiber back into government."
As far as McCain is concerned, Smith said he doesn't need to be convinced of the senator's conservative credentials. And with both a granddaughter and nephew in Iraq, along with a son who spent a year there, Smith said he appreciates McCain's military experience.
He said he'd love to have Huckabee get the nod for McCain's vice presidential spot
"I would like to see McCain win, but to do that, I feel he'll need a conservative from his party" to solidify the base, Smith said. "I would much rather see someone from the conservative movement drawn into the party."
That someone would, of course, be Huckabee, whose presence might go far in reinforcing the critical evangelical part of the GOP base.
Smith admires Huckabee for sticking in the race until the March 4 primaries and caucuses. He thinks this determination will help Huckabee secure the VP slot, but is worried about a potential general election run against Ill. Sen. Barack Obama.
"I don't feel that he [McCain] appeals to the bulk of the American people at this time," he said. The Arizonan is a sort of new Bob Dole; a tough but likeable old fellow who gets trounced by a younger, seemingly youthful candidate, he said.
"I think Obama is getting the kind of support that John Kennedy got years ago," he said.
"I really hate to say it, but I don't think it's going to be the Republicans' year," Smith said.
But Smith holds out hope for this year with his ideal duo of McCain and Huckabee.
Echoing the traditional refrain of many voters in Texas, he asked: "Is he perfect [McCain]? No. But he's the lesser of two evils."