It’s unlikely that Mike Huckabee’s decision to forgo a presidential run will significantly boost any candidate.
“I don’t think anybody gains tremendously from this,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “I can see three or four candidates who can pick off social conservatives or Southerners or blue collar Republicans and Independents. I just don’t see there being a real Huckabee bloc that moves en masse to anybody.”
Sabato thinks that Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty are among those who could gain some of the social conservative voters that have backed Mike Huckabee, while southern voters might drift to Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.
One candidate who might not pick up votes from Huckabee’s decision: Mitt Romney.
“He hates Mitt Romney,” Sabato says. “Given that intense dislike, one has to assume that he will at least make comments hurtful to Romney and maybe endorse one of the other candidates at some point to try to stop Romney, if indeed Romney’s moving forward.”
Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party, sees Santorum as gaining the most in Iowa from Huckabee’s decision.
“I would say Bachmann as well, but Bachmann’s not even to an exploratory stage yet, so it’s not like she can rush in there and actively seek out these votes,” Robinson says. “So I think it’s Santorum who’s going to benefit from this.”
Robinson also points out that Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, could have a “significant” impact on the caucuses again this year if he chooses to endorse a candidate.