If he joins the race for the White House, Mike Huckabee would be formidable, according to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who brought his campaign for the 2012 GOP nomination to Eastern Iowa Friday.
“Clearly he would be a strong contender in Iowa,” Pawlenty said during a stop in Marion about his fellow former governor.
Huckabee, a two-term Arkansas governor and host of “Huckabee” on Fox News, has announced he will reveal his decision on his show Saturday evening.
Speculation is running toward Huckabee taking a pass on the 2012 race for a number of reasons, including the uncomfortable position it would put Fox in if the network let Huckabee announce his campaign on his show. That would open the door for other candidates to demand equal time.
If Huckabee enters the race, Pawlenty said, it probably makes the 55-year-old former Baptist minister the frontrunner in the Iowa precinct caucus campaign.
However, Pawlenty notes that all of the 2008 candidates who are running again have “built-in name ID and support networks.”
“But I like our position … starting a little lower in terms of name ID, but gaining momentum,” said Pawlenty whose schedule included a meet-and-greet at the Marion Public Library and speaking to the Johnson County Republican Party’s Reagan Dinner in Tiffin,
If Huckabee opts out, Pawlenty doesn’t think it changes the race in Iowa.
“There are so many variables,” he said. “The field will remain about as it is, I think.”
Many observers think Huckabee will stay on the sidelines. Many of his key staffers have been scooped up by other campaigns. Pawlenty, for example, has landed Eric Woolson, who was Iowa campaign manager and spokesman for Mike Huckabee’s surprise 2008 precinct caucus win.
Pawlenty said he got to know Huckabee when they both were governors and he respects him.
“I like Mike,” he said. “He’s a good-hearted guy. He cares a lot about the country.”
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