Mike Huckabee, the winner of last week's Republican Iowa caucuses, said Tuesday he's satisfied with his third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. He pledged to forge ahead in hopes of doing better in coming contests.
"Tonight we're going to come out of here with continued momentum," Huckabee told supporters.
The former governor of Arkansas used his come-from-behind Iowa victory to catapult him out of the back of the Republican pack in New Hampshire.
He was never a threat to Tuesday's victor, John McCain, or to Mitt Romney, who finished second.
But he had hoped for a third-place finish to keep him breathing political oxygen as he heads into friendlier states.
"In Michigan, in South Carolina, in Florida ... what you helped us continue will be carried right on through, and it won't be long we're going to be able to secure the nomination and on to the White House and on to leading America," he said.
Other polls say he's leading
Polls in Michigan and South Carolina show him leading or in a tie for first place. Until now, his main rival had been Romney, but as he moves on he will have to compete more directly with McCain as well, who is also counting on Michigan and South Carolina to propel his campaign.
New Hampshire, unlike Iowa, is not a state with a large evangelical population. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, stressed an economic populism rather than his anti-abortion, Christian heritage in the state. His ads in the state stressed his economic record as governor, an attempt to neutralize independent ads against him that have characterized him as a tax raiser.
His supporters on the stump ranged from home-schooling parents to supporters of his plan to eliminate the income tax and replace it with a national sales tax. Compared to his leading rivals, he has been operating on a shoestring budget.
"We thought that if we could finish in the top, we kept saying four or five, we'd feel pretty good about that, knowing just how tough it's been to try to break through. But tonight, you've given us so much more than we could have imagined just a few days or weeks ago," Huckabee said.