What Huck Will Do

Mike Huckabee won't run for President this time around, which is no great surprise. My prediction: he will endorse Tim Pawlenty, either shortly before or shortly after the August 13 Ames Straw Poll.

I think it's pretty clear he intends to endorse at some point, which makes sense. First of all, doing so -- and going through a period of deciding who to endorse -- plays up the perception of his importance in the party. Secondly, his endorsement will help elevate one candidate's chances to beat Mitt Romney, who Huckabee clearly has a personal grudge against.

(BTW, speaking of personal grudge matches, expect today's hit to be just the start of eight months of brutal Romney-bashing on the Union-Leader editorial page.)

As for who Huckabee endorses, I think Pawlenty would have to screw up pretty badly to not get it -- he's a good fit ideologically for Huck; he's clearly willing to suck up to "the Huck," as Pawlenty referred to Huckabee in the first televised debate; and he's got a legitimate chance to win the nomination.

As for when, clearly Huckabee would prefer to wait as long as possible, to maintain the illusion of the great Huck carefully weighing and praying this momentous decision. But his endorsement is most helpful in consolidating the Iowa church-group organizing class, so T-Paw will be pushing hard for pre-Ames. But for Huck, that would really piss of the Bachmann/Cain/Santorum types, all of whom he would be cutting off at the knees before they have a chance to emerge at Ames -- as Huckabee did four years ago. Huck might not be willing to alienate them, and their followers, who of course are part of Huck's core audience/market. So he might insist on waiting until after Ames -- when his endorsement will fit into a push to capitalize on Straw Poll victory Paw-mentum.

Of course, it's possible that Huckabee will decide to endorse one of the wingnuts, handing Romney exactly what he desperately needs -- a scenario where the party establishment needs to rally around Mitt to stop the crazy train. But I'm betting on Huck for T-Paw in early- to mid-August.

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