While I would have serious doubts that Huckabee would reverse himself and decided to run for the nomination, he still remains a force in 2012. His endorsement of a candidate can either make it more difficult for Romney to secure the nomination or make the nomination a breeze.
There are many things to dislike about Huckabee and the way he ran his campaign in 2008, but the one thing it is difficult to argue about his intelligence. In 2008, he used a combination of Evangelical voters, Anti-Mormon sentiment, and Fair Tax voters to pull off a win in Iowa and make him a player in 2008 nomination process.
By continuing to run, after it became clear he could not be the nominee in 2008, he angled for a brokered convention, where he would be able to wield power and influence and force himself on a ticket either on the top of the ticket or a VP for Romney or McCain. Once Romney dropped out and it became clear McCain could not be stopped, he continued to run until he secured enough delegates to be arguably the second place finisher and arguably the next in line guy. Huckabee also put himself in great position to be McCain’s running mate, and may have succeeded if it wasn’t for his play on the Anti-Mormon angle and the backlash that would have created. In the end, Huckabee made it impossible for him or Romney to be McCain’s running mate.
Flash forward three years and Huckabee has been able to turn his accomplishments in 2008 into a media empire generating large sums of personal income. Realizing that he had less than a 40% chance at the nomination and not willing to sacrifice his media empire for less than 50% chance of the nomination, he wisely elected not to run in 2012. That does not mean that Huckabee isn’t still interested in becoming President that just has to wait for another day.
Now let’s flash forward to January 2012 just before the Iowa Caucuses. Huckabee still has a very large following of Evangelical voters who could be persuaded to vote for whoever he endorsed. Huckabee has three choices.
1. Endorse no one.
2. Endorse the Anti-Romney Candidate
3. Endorse Romney.
If Huckabee chooses the first, he will slowly dissipate into the background and his influence will diminish. Others will step up into his position and gain many of his supporters. This will give the least short term advantage to Huckabee but in the long run it wouldn’t hurt him.
If Huckabee chooses the second, it will be marked down as a grudge against Romney and possibly more anti-Mormonism. This will make it even harder for him to secure the nomination in the future, and if Romney gets the nomination, he will not be on the list of potential nominees. This will give Huckabee a short term advantage but in the end, will hurt him more than #1 above.
Or Huckabee could endorse Romney. First it will send shock waves through the nomination process and all but ensure that Romney is the nominee. It will heal a lot of wounds left over from 2012 and make Huckabee a player in 2016 if Romney fails to beat Obama. It would also create a short list of one on the VP choices for Romney and all but ensure that Huckabee will be Romney’s running mate should Huckabee be willing to take the job. Even if Romney were to lose to Obama, it would make Huckabee the next in line in 2016. It would also boost Huckabee’s future media empire should Romney lose and Huckabee go back to the media. Even if Romney should win the nomination, it would put Huckabee in place to be the nominee in 2020 regardless. This would not only be the safe move for Huckabee, but its advantages would be so tempting that it seems hard to believe he would pass it up.