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Huckabee supporters lobby for Ohio debate and hope for a miracle

Despite impossible odds, Ohio supporters of GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee are keeping the faith. They want a media organization to sponsor a debate between him John McCain and Ron Paul. C-N-N canceled its Republican debate in Ohio that was set for next week. WOSU sat down with a couple of central Ohio Huckabee supporters to find out why they want a debate so badly.

"If there's one thing that makes people change their mind out Governor Huckabee and his chances for becoming president, it's hearing him speak," Matthew Judy said.

That's why Judy from Gahanna would like to see a Republican debate in Ohio. Judy said he has not met one person, Republican, Democrat or Independent who has heard Huckabee speak that does not at least say...

"Well, I kind of like the guy."

Judy said he realizes Huckabee needs a miracle to win the nomination. And he said that's why he and lots of others are backing him until the national convention. They have been e-mailing and calling WOSU and other media outlets lobbying them to push for a McCain - Huckabee debate in Ohio. Such a debate is unlikely.

Currently, Senator John McCain is just 273 delegates away from securing the nomination. And if McCain wins Ohio and Texas in two weeks, he'll practically have sealed the deal. At least that's what OSU Political Science Professor Paul Beck predicts will happen.

"Clearly McCain is the front runner. He is within a stone's throw of having enough delegates to gain the nomination. So unless something really big were to hit he is going to be the Republican nominee."

Beck said Huckabee could be doing what McCain did eight years ago, and that's keeping his name on the presidential radar. Beck said in 2000 McCain stayed in the race even though George W. Bush was in command, in turn creating very high levels of visibility for the 2008 race.

"So he's not staying there to effect the GOP agenda, I don't think. But it's rather thinking longer term, maybe also thinking about well, there's a particular group in the electoral that doesn't seem to have much representation," Beck said.

Beck said when it comes to Ohio's March fourth primary there could be several groups of voters. Those who like Huckabee, but think McCain will get the nomination so they vote for McCain. Voters who would have voted for Huckabee regardless. And then those who want to send McCain and the Republican party a message.

"And the message is we're not all that satisfied with you. We would like to use our vote as an opportunity to tell you, to signal to you that there's still a lot of people out there who want you to do certain things, represent certain constituencies," Beck said.

Jennifer Cameron from Upper Arlington is another grassroots supporter who wanted a debate in Columbus. While Cameron may not be sending a particular message with her vote for Huckabee on March fourth, she said she'd doing it because of her convictions.

"For me it is about the issues. It's not about the delegate count. And at some point one needs to take a stand for what they believe in even when the odds don't appear to be in your favor," Cameron said.

Cameron said she wanted a GOP debate in Ohio because it would better educate voters on who the candidates really are. But the efforts of Cameron, Judy and others are not backed by the Huckabee campaign. A spokesperson for the Huckabee campaign said it is not pushing for a Republican debate in Ohio. Cameron said she has not heard the campaign was against the grassroots efforts.

"I want to do anything that is going to be edifying of the campaign, and knowing that my thoughts and my actions and my words are going to reflect back, even though I'm independent, are going to reflect back directly on our candidate. And so anything I do and say is going to be based on what I believe they want to do," Cameron said.

The question for McCain is will Huckabee's supporters vote for him in November. Cameron says she might. Judy say he will.