Politico's Martin and Smith remind the political world not to forget about Mike Huckabee when looking ahead to the 2012 GOP presidential contest.
Dial down the deafening Sarah Palin buzz for just a moment: The most consequential decision in the 2012 Republican presidential sweepstakes could be whether Mike Huckabee decides to run again – and associates say the former Arkansas governor may well take the plunge.
If Huckabee gets in, he will unquestionably be a force to be reckoned with in the fight for the nomination. He’d be the undisputed frontrunner in lead-off Iowa, where he won by nine points in 2008. He’d be the candidate to beat in South Carolina, which he narrowly lost to John McCain two years ago in part because of a divided conservative vote. His weekly Fox show, thrice-daily radio program and Grisham-like ability to crank out a book-per-year has given him a direct media presence akin to Palin’s – but without the sky-high negatives.
And should Huckabee stay out, it would create a vacuum on the right among both religious conservatives and tea party activists that would significantly re-order the race and potentially create a larger opening for Palin.
And will Huck run? Some mixed opinions.
“My sense is he would like to do it,” said longtime GOP consultant Ed Rollins, Huckabee’s 2008 campaign chairman and still a close adviser.
“He’s truly enjoying what he’s doing right now,” added Chip Saltsman, the governor’s 2008 campaign manager and another close confidante, noting that Huckabee has “never really made any money.”
“But it’s hard to ignore these early polls that show him at top of the food chain,” said Saltsman.
Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah, went even further.
“I certainly wouldn’t count him out,” she said. “There is as good a chance that he runs at this point as he doesn’t.”