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Republicans Denied the Chance to Once Again Deny Huckabee the Nomination

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Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump's collective fake smile grew 20% larger this weekend, as potential front-runner Mike Huckabee announced he would not seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Huckabee, a baptist minister who captured the hearts of the religious right in the 2008 election process, was considered by many analysts to be one of the strongest contenders for the nomination. He appeared to have a clear path to the nomination, assuming he could raise enough money to compete. Huckabee has said before that he dislikes asking for money, making fund-raising a challenge.

Huckabee's surprising decision not to run may be related not to fund-raising, but rather to his personal wealth. He currently earns a healthy income from his Fox News program — a show he likely would have to quit if he runs for office — as well as from his book sales. He is reportedly building a large home in Florida, a state which has no personal income taxes.

It might be difficult to explain his decision to take his new-found wealth and establish a residency in a tax-free state at a time when government debt and tax avoidance are top political issues.

Even with Huckabee's announcement, President Barack Obama isn't going to start measuring the curtains for updated drapes just yet. Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump are near the top of current polls, and both have the star power to command attention from the media and the Republican primary voters. Libertarian Ron Paul declared on Friday, and his message resonates very well with the tea party activists who have dominated the Republican field for two years.

None of those three are particularly loved in social conservative circles. Gingrich is on his third wife and has a history as a serial adulterer, as well as a looseness with the truth. He resigned from Congress in 1998 amid ethics concerns. Trump has been a Republican for about 15 minutes, and Ron Paul is wonderful for folks who had pinup posters of Ayn Rand in their homes.

This leaves a tremendous gap in the Republican field, which has been largely dominated by the religious right since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. Gingrich has tried to bridge that gap with an appeal toward “religious liberty,” a stand that might make him tolerable to religious conservatives, but clearly not their first choice. If social issues are part of the campaign, someone will likely emerge to claim the mantle of social warrior for 2012.

Mitt Romney is sure to make a bid for that role. He's as clean-cut as one gets, but he's a Mormon. Theological differences, as well as Romney's early support for health care reform when he was governor of Massachusetts, may sink him with the right-wing. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, has the conservative credentials, but is somewhat unimpressive as a candidate. He might fit in better as a vice-presidential pick, if one of the more economic-focused candidates wins the nomination (such as Trump).

Beyond that, the social conservative field thins out to some lesser-known candidates. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is said to be considering a run. If she decides to run, she only needs to place third or better in the Iowa caucuses to develop some momentum — a near certainty if no other social conservative alternatives arise.

Still, the path to the nomination for everyone but Donald Trump remains cloudy and uncertain. Huckabee's decision to stay out of the race adds more uncertainty to what looks to be an entertaining and unpredictable 2012 nomination race.

As of right now, it seems like Donald Trump is sitting somewhere, smiling, playing with his hair gel, and counting the days until he is destroyed in the general election.

 

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