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ELECTION 2008

Huckabee Backer Walks Lonely Road With Fervor

Huckabee campaign staffer and Ward 5 resident Brian Summers at Ben's Chili Bowl, the Washington landmark he calls his unofficial headquarters.
Huckabee campaign staffer and Ward 5 resident Brian Summers at Ben's Chili Bowl, the Washington landmark he calls his unofficial headquarters. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brian Summers flew to San Antonio yesterday, hoping to save Mike Huckabee.

If it were simply up to Summers's passionate support for the former Arkansas governor, then front-runner Sen. John McCain -- 193 delegates away from the Republican nomination for president -- would do well to worry.

It was Summers, after all, who denied the Arizona senator a clean sweep of the District primary. Okay, so McCain won the District with 68 percent of the vote Feb. 12, but he lost in Ward 7 by three votes, 61 to 58. In Ward 8, Huckabee held his own with a 37 to 35 heartbreaker, and in Ward 5 he got 31 percent of the vote.

Paul D. Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, explains: It's Brian Summers.

The 37-year-old Ward 5 resident is a paid staffer for the Huckabee campaign.

"I went to churches. I went to Bible study groups. I didn't go in selling the Republican Party. I came in and sold a candidate," said Summers, who targeted wards 7 and 8 in Southeast Washington, where he hoped to strike a chord with black Republicans who are Christians and who he thought could identify with Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister. It worked.

Everything, of course, is relative. Huckabee squeezed 1,020 votes out of the Democratic-dominated District. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who beat rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) by a 3 to 1 margin in the Democratic primary, had 93,386 votes. Republicans cast 6,292 ballots in the GOP primary.

Summers has traveled the country for his candidate, but nowhere is it tougher than on his home turf.

"I get teased a lot," he said good-naturedly.

Like this past weekend, when Summers was in his favorite haunt, Ben's Chili Bowl. (He had his victory party there.)

Looking like a barbershop quartet in white outfits stained by chili and grease, a group of cooks and servers pointed over the counter at Summers and put their own words to a beat blaring from the jukebox.

"O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" they sang.


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