“You have to have South Carolina to win,” Mike Huckabee said last month during a stop here on his latest book tour. Or was it really just a “book” tour?
The former Arkansas governor has been clear that he will not take another stab at the presidency unless he thinks he can win. As he gauges his chances of mounting a successful White House run, no state looms larger in his calculus than South Carolina.
And his most recent visit to the first-in-the-South primary state gave him some reason to be encouraged.
If he runs, Huckabee might be poised to repeat his 2008 victory in the Iowa caucuses. But his challenge figures to be steeper in South Carolina, where he finished second last time around to eventual Republican nominee John McCain.
Although Huckabee apparently has not yet made up his mind about another White House run, his South Carolina team-in-waiting is unanimous in agreeing that he could pull it off, even if he gets a later start than his rivals.
A top White House official privately told RCP late last year that Huckabee was the Republican candidate with whom Obama aides had been most apprehensive about sharing a debate stage in 2008, and early polls of hypothetical 2012 general election matchups indicate that the former Arkansas governor could plausibly make the electability argument in a second presidential run.
He may not be taking the overt steps that his prospective rivals have taken toward a campaign, but Huckabee’s team remains confident that a summer launch would be just the right time to make his Republican rivals and President Obama sweat.