Why has Mike Huckabee stayed in the race so long? The answer is a matter of classic American politicking.

Firstly and most importantly, Huckabee has done something that no other moral majority/Christian right/evangelical candidate has ever done: consistently win primaries throughout an extended campaign. His ideological forefathers, including Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson, invariably lost momentum, funds and focus when their messages were translated to many different audiences around the country.

Huckabee has remained a delegate-drain and consistent thorn in frontrunner John McCain’s side by combining staunch Christian values with well spoken Reaganesque charm and proposals of economic populism. His campaign, though limited to victories in Southern states, Kansas and Iowa, consistently draws dedicated crowds who have not been deterred by McCain’s preeminent coronation.

Simply put, Huckabee has stayed in the race because there has been no reason to leave. His personal charisma and smart campaigning have belied conventional wisdom that it takes a fortune to run a campaign.

His stunning wins on Super Tuesday and in Iowa, coupled with close finishes in South Carolina and Virginia, give him ongoing maneuvering power within the Republican Party, particularly noting that “maverick” McCain continues to lack strong support in the GOP base. If McCain were to tap Huckabee as his Vice President, he gains evangelical and social conservative street credit that he may need in the general election.

Even if he is not selected (and some critics have stressed that Huckabee’s relative inexperience on the national political stage and populist economic policies may disqualify him from the nomination), Huck is only 52-years-old and has vetted himself as a viable leader of the religious right for years to come.