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The AP’s Front Runner: Mike Huckabee

As troubling as this might be for some NR readers, I agree with them (which is not an endorsement of Mike Huckabee. My favorite candidate for 2012 is still racking up frequent-flier miles to Argentina, as far as I know). An excerpt:

Mike Huckabee is turning into a front-runner for his party’s 2012 presidential nomination almost by default.
A pair of sex scandals involving Republicans once touted as White House contenders and the abrupt exit of another hopeful from the public stage are helping Huckabee boost his odds as he weighs another presidential run.
“Given that the dominoes are falling, the fact that he’s still standing works to his benefit,” said Hal Bass, political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University.
Huckabee already had plenty working in his favor for another run at the White House in 2012. His surprising show in the nominating contests last year, despite a lag in fundraising, already gave him a leg up on other contenders considering another bid.
And the former Arkansas governor has already begun visiting Iowa, home of his victory in the leadoff caucuses in 2008. But he says Republicans need to be focused on the midterm elections, not 2012.
“Anybody who already has decided right now they are definitely running for president doesn’t need to be, because they think it’s all about them,” Huckabee said in Iowa last month. “We don’t know what our country is going to be like in two years. I can’t make that determination right now.”

Allah Pundit at Hot Air sees it differently:

I like to goof with you guys about him being the nominee because I know it (inexplicably) torments you, but seriously: Assuming Romney runs, which is a near certainty, give me a scenario in which Huck tops him for the nomination. He’ll have his strongholds — Iowa, South Carolina, plenty of other southern states — but Romney will have the coasts, the northeast, lots of the midwest, most of the party bigwigs, all of talk radio, and a huge war chest on his side. He’ll also be seen as the “economy” candidate while Huck is pigeonholed as the social con. And needless to say, if Palin runs and pulls evangelicals away from him, Huck will be lucky to win a single primary. So I repeat the question. How does Huck win the nomination?

Well, going back to what David Freddoso wrote in 2008, there is a path. An excerpt from his piece for NRO right before the Florida primary.

An entire Republican-heavy section of the state — the northern panhandle — could have been created just so that Mike Huckabee would win Florida. He has also gained endorsements, not just from evangelical pastors, but from real Reagan conservatives throughout the state. House Speaker Marco Rubio is a Roman Catholic, in addition to being the first Cuban to head a state legislative body. His endorsement of Huckabee came as a big surprise to many in Florida’s GOP, and gave Huckabee at least one inroad into the Cuban community that dominate Dade County GOP politics.
Mike Haridopolos is a young state senator who will either run for Congress this year or become the senate president. He helped lead the successful conservative coup against the moderates who controlled the state senate in 2006. Known principally for his knowledge of economic issues — not necessarily for his Baptist faith — Haridopolos announced his endorsement of Huckabee shortly after John McCain’s victory in South Carolina.
“Legitimately, the guy is a good conservative,” said Haridopolos. He admitted that Huckabee had raised taxes in Arkansas, but he said that the governor understands economic issues as well as the other issues that matter most to conservatives. “Whether you like his past or not, he’s been a really straightforward guy. He signed the no-tax pledge. He is strongly pro-gun — more so than anyone left in this race. He is strongly pro-life.”

And. . .

He was once the national frontrunner. It was less than a month ago that he won in Iowa, but it feels like it has been a year. What the heck happened to Huck? Haridopolos offers the same frank assessment that many have offered before him. “Had he gone from New Hampshire straight to South Carolina, he’d probably be competing for the victory in Florida,” he said.
Instead, Huckabee went to Michigan, giving Fred Thompson a chance to come to life in South Carolina and erode his base. Huckabee had every reason to think he would perform well in Michigan. His message of economic populism seemed promising among the autoworkers in that state’s East, and he could have also caught fire with the Dutch reformed and Evangelical communities in the West.
It was a strategic error — a bridge too far for a campaign always short of resources. Macomb County, outside of Detroit, gave Huckabee a pathetic 13 percent. He lost to McCain and Romney among voters from union households, despite his witty ad contrasting himself (“the guy you work with”) to Romney (“the guy who laid you off”). Huckabee even lost to Romney (34 to 29 percent) among self-identified Evangelical and Born-Again Christians.
The subsequent loss in South Carolina definitely hurt his credibility with Florida voters. Polls from both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show him losing six points in the Sunshine State since his close second-place finish there. At the same time, his rate of donations has stayed steady, if it remains comparatively slow. According to the live feed from his website, Huckabee had raised $2 million this month before the Jan. 19 contest in South Carolina. He has raised just under $1 million in the ten days since.

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