From NBC/NJ's Matthew Berger
HOUSTON -- Huckabee said he took McCain at his word and would not speculate on the impact of the New York Times article suggesting the Republican front-runner had an affair during the 2000 presidential campaign with a lobbyist.
"You know, I've campaigned now on the same stage and platform with John McCain for 14 months; I only know him to be a man of integrity," Huckabee said at a press conference after a rally. "Today he denied any of that was true, I take him at his word. I have no further comment other than that. I think for me to get into it is completely immaterial. Again, I only know him what I know him to be, and that's a good and decent and honorable man."
Pressed to speak about the paper's decision to run the article or what the allegations may mean for the Republican race, he demurred.
"This is politics, but you know, I don't have any further comments on this other than what I've said," he said. "I feel like that's why I'm not in Texas anyway."
Huckabee drew only about 100 supporters Thursday morning and stressed that a win in Texas is key to his strategy of preventing McCain from garnering 1,191 delegates. He has refrained from calling any state a "must-win," but came close Wednesday in Plano.
"I don't know that any person running for office has ever depended so on a single state as I'm depending on the people of Texas, but I believe this; Texas is an awfully big state, it's gonna make a big noise come March the 4th," he said Wednesday.
While the Houston morning crowd was small, those attending the Wednesday rally in Plano said there were more than 1,500 people.
On Thursday, he also likened himself to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat while discussing those who say he is staying in the race because of ego or because he likes to fly around in airplanes.
"What an idiot!" he said of one unnamed television pundit. "I've been flying around on airplanes enough to tell you it's not all its cracked up to be."
Describing on life on the road, he noted he only averages one night a month at home.
"Honestly, I tell people I'm living the life of Yasser Arafat; I sleep in a different place every night," he said. "Of course, he's sleeping in the same place every night now, and it's not good. My reason for spending the night in a different place is a little different than his was when he was around."