Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Tuesday he would press on with his White House candidacy, emboldened by wins in the South.
"The one way you can't win a race is to quit it, and until somebody beats me, I'm going to answer the bell for every round of this fight," the former Arkansas governor said in an AP interview from Little Rock.
Huckabee beat rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney in West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia and his home state, and early returns showed him leading in a few more Super Tuesday states. He said he would emerge from the virtual national primary contests as the alternative to McCain, the Arizona senator and Republican front-runner.
"I've got to say that Mitt Romney was right about one thing - this is a two-man race. He was just wrong about who the other man in the race was. It's me, not him," Huckabee said.
Huckabee suggested that only he and McCain would be left standing after 21 states held primaries and caucuses on Tuesday but stopped short of saying Romney should drop out. However, he said his supporters, many of them fellow Christian evangelicals, sent a strong message to Romney, who has been casting himself as the strongest conservative in the race.
"The conservatives are in the South, and the conservative base of the Republican party, I'm winning it. And there's just no way to argue that," Huckabee said. "Romney had to be able to show that he was really pulling those conservative votes, and he's not."
Preliminary exit polling from 16 states showed that white, born again, evangelical Christians split across the three leading Republican candidates, with one-third supporting Huckabee and the rest evenly divided between McCain and Romney.