Fox News contributor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says that current Republican front-runner Mitt Romney may run the table to the GOP presidential nomination with early wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida this month, following his close Iowa caucus win last week.
“[Romney] could be well be on his way to running the tables in the first several states and if that happens, it’s going to be very difficult to catch up to him,” Huckabee told me this morning on “This Week.”
“I think depending on whether Romney wins New Hampshire and South Carolina, if he should win those two, go to Florida and win there, there may be some folks who limp along for a while,” Huckabee added. “I don’t see how they catch up with him if he runs the table in those early states.”
I spoke with the former Arkansas governor from the stage of last night’s ABC News presidential debate in Manchester, N.H. – the same stage I spoke to him from four years ago days before the 2008 New Hampshire primary, following his own surprise win in Iowa.
Huckabee said that it was “inexplicable” to him that the other candidates in the current GOP field did not go after Romney more aggressively at last night’s debate in order to slow his momentum toward the nomination.
“It appeared that everybody was a little hesitant, if not timid, in going after him directly,” Huckabee said. “And I think everyone who watched the debate was surprised by that.”
Rick Santorum, who came eight votes shy of his own surprise win in Iowa, drew many of the same evangelical conservative voters that drove Huckabee’s Iowa win in 2008.
Huckabee told me that Santorum was wise to not skip New Hampshire and try to appeal to more conservative voters in the next primary in South Carolina – as some had advocated that Huckabee do during his last campaign.
“If Rick Santorum had bypassed New Hampshire and gone to South Carolina, people would have said, well, he just couldn’t compete,” Huckabee said. “He cannot somehow be pegged as the guy who can only campaign where there are value voters who will vote for him. That would be disastrous more so than competing.”
While many conservatives are concerned that their votes will be split between Santorum, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Huckabee said he doubts that conservatives will close ranks behind any one candidate.
“You have people heavily invested in each of these candidates,” Huckabee said. “Nobody’s going to work this hard to get this far and suddenly just exit the stage because someone suggested they ought to.”
“So, no, there’s not going to be some magic moment at which three, or four of these people sit around a campfire toasting marshmallows, singing Kumbaya and giving the nod to one of their competitors,” Huckabee added. “That just isn’t going to happen. And anybody who thinks it is has never run for public office.”
When I asked him if he had any regrets about not entering the 2012 field himself, he said he had “none whatsoever.”
“You don’t regret decisions that in your heart that you believe were right. If you start regretting those decisions, you made the wrong one,” Huckabee said. “It was a deeply personal one and I’m at peace with it.”