The Big Questions: What’s Huck to Do?

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Mark Halperin’s answers this week in TIME.

Is Mike Huckabee a formidable contender for the Republican presidential nomination? Huckabee finished second in the GOP delegate count in 2008 and is the defending champion in the kickoff Iowa caucuses and a natural fit for the first-in-Dixie South Carolina primary. Plus he now makes his home in Florida, always pivotal in the general election. His weekly variety show on the Fox News Channel, daily radio commentaries and well-hyped books have made him a more familiar and celebrated presence than he was four years ago.

Does that mean he could beat Mitt Romney and capture the nomination? There are hurdles, to be sure. Huckabee’s Arkansas record on taxes and crime opens him up to attacks from the right, and he lacks an off-the-shelf political network and ties to the corporate wing of the party. Still, tellingly, some of Barack Obama’s advisers see Huckabee as among their most worrisome general-election foes, as a likable candidate with a smooth demeanor who could keep the spotlight on the incumbent’s record and compete for female voters.

So why might he skip the race? It’s all about the money. As a man of high income but relatively low resources, he would need to find a way to afford his new multimillion-dollar home and pay the bills while suspending his lucrative pundit career for a draining presidential campaign. Second, he has never liked hobnobbing with fat cats and wooing them for campaign contributions. Huckabee needs to make a decision by mid-June if he wants to attract the $25 million he’d need to fund a more structured effort than four years ago. But if you are wagering today, bet that he gets in.

Related Topics: 2012 Elections

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