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Huckabee Concedes Nomination to McCain

Courtesy CQ Transcripts Wire
Tuesday, March 4, 2008 9:21 PM

FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-ARK.: Thank you very much. Well, George Brett was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. And in his career for the Kansas City Royals, he was asked, when he was nearing the end of his career, how he wanted his last play in the major leagues to go.

Well, everyone assumed that he would say that he wanted to hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to win a game, perhaps even a World Series. He surprised all of the sportswriters, because what he said was, "I want my last play at bat to be that I hit an easy, just one bounce to the second baseman, and they throw me out at first. But I was running as hard as I could toward the bag when they got me."

And he said, "Because I want it to be said of George Brett that, no matter what, he played his best game, he gave it his best, all the way to the very end." And he certainly did just that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I called Senator McCain a few moments ago. It looks pretty apparent tonight that he will, in fact, achieve 1,191 delegates to become the Republican nominee for our party.

I extended to him not only my congratulations, but my commitment to him and to the party to do everything possible to unite our party, but more importantly to unite our country, so that we can be the best nation we can be, not for ourselves, but for the future generations to whom we owe everything, just as we owe previous generations all that they have done for us.

Senator McCain has run an honorable campaign because he's an honorable man. One of the things I'm proudest of is that the two campaigns that I believe have been run in the most civil manner are the two in the Republican Party that have lasted on their feet to the final. And I'm grateful for the manner in which he has conducted his campaign.

And, quite frankly, with your great help, I'm very proud of the way that you have insisted that we conduct our campaign. And it's been one that we will always be able to say was done with honor.

It's now important that we turn our attention not to what could have been or what we wanted to have been, but what now must be, and that is a united party, but a party that, indeed, comes together on those principles that have brought many of us not just to this race, but to politics in general.

I have so many people to thank, starting with this lady here to my right, who I still believe...

(APPLAUSE)

And, by the way, I think it's fitting that she got better applause than me, because she deserves it. She truly does.

(LAUGHTER)

She's been through so much. She is a magnificent first lady of Arkansas for 10 1/2 years, and I always believed she would be a wonderful first lady for the United States, as well. And I'm grateful for her patience and perseverance through every step of this wonderful journey we've had.

I'm grateful for my family. Some of you may have heard me say this, and it's true: My family didn't have to be persuaded or begged to give their permission and blessing for me to get involved in this campaign. In fact, they were ready for me to do it before I was. Truth is, I was the holdout; they weren't.

And what a wonderful, magnificent gift they've given me with their loyalty and their dedication, involving themselves with their sleeves rolled up every single day of this effort, giving 110 percent of themselves. And for that, I will always be grateful.

I also want to say I've had the best staff that anybody has ever had running for president. And, by the way, I'm pretty sure it's probably the smallest staff that anybody's ever had running for president.

Imagine trying to do this with about 30 people. I don't think it's ever been attempted. No one has ever gotten this far with such limited resources.

But the fact is what we've been able to do was to ask of every one of our staff that they work as if they were two or three people, and they worked as if they were four. And I want to say thanks to them, every last one of them.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm also mindful that the real story of this campaign is going to be in the faces of those of you who are here and the literally millions of faces across this country of people who never made the headlines, never led the 6 o'clock news, but who have been the backbone, the heart and the soul of our campaign.

The apostle Paul wrote that, "I fought the good fight; I've finished the race; and I've kept the faith." And I believe tonight that one of the things that we will be able to say is not only that we fought the good fight and finished the race; we'd like to have finished it first, but we stayed in until the race was over.

But I think, more importantly, we've kept the faith. And that for me has been the most important goal of all. I'd rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place.

(APPLAUSE)

We started this effort with very little recognition and virtually no resources. We ended with slightly more recognition and very few resources.

(LAUGHTER)

But what a journey. What a journey, a journey of a lifetime. It is not lost on me where I started. The prophet Isaiah said, and I've quoted it often, "Look to the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug."

I know of the earth from which I have come, the humble circumstances of the son of a firefighter and who worked a second job, barely paying their rent on the rent house in Hope, Arkansas, where we lived, a mother who was oldest of seven kids and grew up in a house, dirt floor, outdoor toilets, no electricity when she was little, parents who, like so many across this country, wanted for their kids to have a better life.

I don't think they could've ever imagined that that better life would have included running for president and getting this close to getting there.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me say, while many among the establishment never really believed I belonged, there were a lot of people in this country who did. And most importantly...

(APPLAUSE)

... these are the people across this nation who gave me a voice over these past 14 months. It was their sacrifices, the sacrifices of a truck driver in Michigan, of a housewife who sold her wedding ring on eBay and gave the contribution to the campaign, a janitor in Alabama who has a wife in a wheelchair who gave $20, not out of his abundance, but out of his poverty, so that our campaign could stay on the track.

Those are the folks who have given me a voice, and I only pray to God that I've been able to give them a voice, a voice for the unborn children of this country, a voice for life...

(APPLAUSE)

... a voice for the hard-working people who lift everything every day for the rest of us and who carry food to our tables, who pick up the bags, who make great sacrifices and often work two jobs, for every soldier and sailor and airman who puts on a uniform and keeps us free, for every small business owner who hopes that one day he'll be able to succeed not having to overcome his toughest competition, his own government, and that maybe one day his government would facilitate his business, not complicate it.

For all of the conservatives of this country and party who want less government and who want what government they have to be a little more efficient, a little more effective, a little less filled with corruption, and a whole lot filled with the kind of competence that we pay for, I also believe that there are people out there for whom I hope I've given a voice, and that's the people who believe that we need to really overhaul our tax system and implement the Fair Tax and get rid of the IRS.

(APPLAUSE)

And I believe that we've given voice to folks who are single moms and those guys who are out there working two shifts trying to make sure they can just keep the rent paid and put food on the table for their families.

All across this country, we've stood at rallies and I have looked into the faces of amazing people who love their country, who cherish their families, who work very hard at their jobs, who worship God, and who give very sacrificially to others, even when it would be very easy for them to keep their time and their money totally to themselves.

But they know that's not what made America a great country. It's giving that did.

Well, we'll go home tonight and hopefully bring our team together for the transition. We'll be working on doing everything we can to help Senator McCain and to help our party, to help those who run for the Senate and the Congress, because there are many battles this year that we need not just to fight; we need to win them, for our country's sake and our future's sake.

(APPLAUSE)

It's time for us to hit the reset button. Sometimes when the computer stalls, that's what you do: You hit the reset button.

But in doing so, we also recognize the extraordinary privilege that we've had and the amazing people who have been there for the journey.

We aren't going away completely. We want to be a part of helping to keep the issues alive that have kept us in this race.

And, by the way, I know there were many who thought we wouldn't make it to March '07, much less March '08. And we've done so because so many of you worked beyond your capacity and gave in ways I can't even begin to imagine.

Neither Janet nor I have the words to say, "Thanks." We can only thank you with hopefully our future actions, that we will work hard for our country, we will work hard for our party and the nominee, because we love this country and that's why we got in.

And until our country is all that we hope and pray it to be, we won't be able to walk away completely.

I've said many times here in Texas that I was inspired by the incredible story of that small group of less than 200 volunteers at the Alamo in San Antonio who took refuge in that church mission. And they saw the incredible armies of Santa Ana start massing against them.

On February the 23rd of 1836, 172 years ago this past week, those armies began a 24-hour onslaught and bombardment. On the 24th day of February, Colonel William Barret Travis wrote the letter from the Alamo that should reign and live in all of our hearts and memories, not just for Texas, but for all the world, all who love liberty.

As he said on the incredible occasion, he said, "The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion. Otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword if the fort is taken." He said, "I've answered the demand with a cannon shot and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat."

"I call upon you in the name of liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character to come to our aid with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving enforcements daily and will no doubt increase to 3,000 or 4,000 in four or five days."

"If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country: victory or death."

These were people who understood that their battle was not about them. It was about the principles of liberty that they deemed even more important than their own lives.

Tonight, I hope that our battle was never about us. It was about our country and its liberty. And now we join with Senator McCain and the rest in our party to continue that battle, to continue that fight, not for who gets elected, but for what we do in maintaining liberty and freedom when we get elected and when our country's flag still waves proudly on the wall.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You're a great American, Mike.

HUCKABEE: And you're a great American, as well.

Thank you, folks. God bless you. We love you. And thank you very, very much for going the journey with us. Thank you.

END

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