Mike Huckabee will announce on his television show tonight that he is not a candidate for the Republican nomination. Haley Barbour doesn’t have the “fire in the belly”. Huckabee will say that he doesn’t feel led by the Holy Spirit. At any rate, two strong Southern candidates will not be on the ballot in a primary coming soon to your state. So where do Huckabee’s supporters go, now that there favored candidate is out of the race?
The answer to this question may very likely determine the nominee, since Huckabee was first or second in almost every poll. With 16.4% in the RCP average and from 15% to 19% depending on the polling organization, if Huckabee’s supporters move in masse to one of the other candidates, that would be decisive. Herman Cain would seem perhaps to have the inside track on getting a large block of Huck’s votes. He is a strong, straight forward speaker, a tea party favorite, and a supporter of the “fair tax”, which helped Huckabee win Iowa last time around. Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann are the other two candidates who would seem likely to benefit. Santorum for his advocacy of social conservative issues, especially his strong pro-life stance. Bachmann, a tea party leader and dynamic speaker, also has a strong personal narrative, having raised 23 foster children, that will gain support among Huck’s voters. I leave out Sarah Palin, because I don’t think she will run either. If she does, then she will also benefit.
The most recent PPP poll, however, shows that overwhelmingly, the greatest beneficiary of a Huckabee non-candidacy will be —-Newt Gingrich. Gingrich goes from 10% to 15% and catapults to 2nd place if Huckabee is not on the ballot. And if Sarah Palin also doesn’t run, Gingrich goes to 26% and a dead heat for first place with Mitt Romney. This is the one game-changing event that could secure the nomination for Gingrich, if he can hold onto Huckabee’s supporters.