[Updated at bottom of article with an "explanation" from the WA state GOP chairman. This story gets more bizarre by the minute. Be sure to check the updates if you read this story earlier.]
"The Huckabee Presidential Campaign will be exploring all available legal options regarding the dubious final results for the state of Washington State Republican precinct caucuses," according to a statement posted today on their official campaign website.
It was 2:30am on the West Coast last night as we noticed CNN was reporting only 87% of precincts counted from Washington state's Republican Caucus yesterday. Just over 200 votes separated the leader John McCain from Mike Huckabee in a very close second, with Ron Paul coming in a very close third.
Throughout the day, according to Josh Marshall at TPM, Huckabee had been leading in the returns until very late, when McCain pulled just ahead of him by just a few votes.
"With 87% of the returns counted," writes Marshall, "the Washington state GOP, which runs the caucuses stopped releasing results. That left us and a lot of other news organizations in a bit of a quandary last night since it looked like McCain was going to pull it off. But as late as 1:30 AM on the east coast promised new results kept failing to materialize."
And then, in the middle of the night, the state GOP posted a press release declaring McCain the winner, even with some 13% of the votes still unreported, and just 242 votes --- out of 13,745 reported so far --- separating McCain from Huckabee who'd finished a "strong second" according to the GOP release.
"In other words," Huckabee campaign chair Ed Rollins says in their statement this morning, "more than one in eight Evergreen State Republicans have been disenfranchised by the actions of their own party."
"Now, I think it would be borderline for a media organization to declare one candidate a winner when the margin separating first and second was 1.8% with 13% of the results still uncounted," writes Marshall today. "But for the officials holding the election to declare the result on that basis is simply bizarre. But that's what they did."
Of course, none of that kept the always-responsible Reuters news service from declaring "McCain wins Washington state Republican contest" at 8:10am ET this morning.
This afternoon, the Huckabee camp is announcing they are prepared to go to court if necessary, as the candidate himself declared that "weird things" are going on in Washington while on NBC's Meet the Press.
At the same time, the results of the GOP Louisiana Primary, as announced by the state, are even closer than those so far released in Washington. Though because the election was held on wholly unverifiable electronic voting machines, everyone will simply have to settle for whatever numbers the faith-based systems reported to them, no matter how close the margin...