This seemed remotely possible, but I never took his chances here seriously. Yes, it is “just” a
caucus state party convention, which exaggerates the level of support for the campaigns with the most dedicated activists, but even in an old border state Huckabee was able to mobilise enough Christian conservative support to win 52-47 over Romney. This might be one of the few cases where Huckabee really did cost Romney a state. That’s 18 delegates for Huckabee.
Update: Those are the second-round results (Paul had only 10% support after the first round and wasn’t included on the second ballot). Romney was leading the first round, but almost all the McCain and some of the Ron Paul supporters rallied to Huckabee on the second ballot. Given the options, I can’t blame them.
Second Update: This is doubly distressing for Romney, since his campaign never anticipated a serious challenge from anyone else in West Virginia:
An interview with John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mitt Romney, made clear why he is expected to win easily.
“We have had the only organizational presence in West Virginia to speak of,” said John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mr. Romney. “It’s all Romney all the time.”
Romney’s been so busy fighting with Bob Dole that he has forgotten to watch out for Huckabee. Again.
See the over-confidence of Team Romney:
Mr. McCutcheon described an ambitious county-by-county ground operation, complete with phone-banking, direct mail and radio advertisements, compared to only modest efforts made by all the other candidates.
“Any presence that has come in has been last minute and skeletal,” he said about the other campaigns.
So the “last minute and skeletal” operation beat out the well-funded, elaborate, ambitious ground game. Again.
Third Update: Just to clarify, West Virginia has 30 delegates, nine of which will be awarded after their actual primary, plus three at-large delegates. Huckabee has won all the delegates that were at stake at the convention, but conceivably he could lose the primary and fail to pick up the others.
Fourth Update: The Caucus describes Romney’s loss as a “significant setback.” Via Freddoso, the Romney campaign whines about a “backroom deal” throwing the convention to Huckabee. Romney’s camp said that this reflected McCain’s “inside Washington ways” (i.e., his people are better political operators than Romney’s). It wasn’t really a “backroom deal,” but it was a second ballot at a convention. Making deals with different factions at a convention is one of the things that happens at a political convention–it’s the kind of “scheming” that one needs to be able to do in the event that your side doesn’t carry the first ballot. Ponnuru correctly calls this whining silly.