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Mike Huckabee's Ready-Made Campaign

Mike Huckabee's Ready-Made Campaign

By Erin McPike - May 5, 2011

Jon Huntsman has had one for months. Mitch Daniels effectively has one, too. And as it turns out, so, now, does Mike Huckabee. It's become the strangest phenomenon of the 2012 GOP primary: The campaign-in-waiting.

The reasons they've formed are varied. Huntsman, now-former U.S. ambassador to China, was a federal employee and couldn't dabble in politics, so a cadre of potential advisers set up shop for him with the expectation he will run. Indiana Gov. Daniels has long had a political team but has been preoccupied running the Hoosier State. Most of all, the three teams collectively reinforce the suggestion that a wide-open Republican field, coupled with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's recent decision not to run, has further convinced veteran Republican operatives that there is a hunger for more likable options.

In Huckabee's case, a lucrative Fox News contract has kept him sensitive to developing a political operation, but he's hardly blind to what's springing up on his behalf. Edward J. Rollins, who joined Huckabee's team as national chairman in mid-December of 2007 -- just weeks before Huckabee solidly won the 2008 Iowa caucuses -- has been charged with setting up shop.

For months, the political class has believed that Huckabee would not run in the 2012 election cycle because he wasn't taking any organizational steps. (Activists in New Hampshire, too, said in March that his messaging was off, which suggested to them he would stay out.) That has changed, and a scheduled appearance at the Republican Leadership Conference in Louisiana in June and a fundraiser Wednesday in Washington are part of the latest evidence.

According to a confidant of Rollins who has been slated for a high-level position in the potential campaign, "Ed has had long and serious discussions with Mike as recently as this past weekend." Rollins would manage the first phase of the Huckabee campaign this time.

"He's looking at the polls and seeing what everyone else is," the Rollins confidant said, noting that after several months of jockeying, Huckabee is still at or near the top of the national polls when it comes to the Republican field, and polling just about even in matchups with President Obama.

And since Barbour announced about 10 days ago that he wouldn't run, the Huckabee planning and strategizing has picked up. For a while, Huckabee has indicated he would make a decision about whether to run sometime this summer, but Rollins has been applying pressure, and the timeline is accelerating.

Now, he may have to offer his decision by the end of the month. Republican operatives familiar with the deliberations at Fox News say that the network has told Huckabee he has until the end of the month to make up his mind about the race or he'll be cut off, just as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were when the then-contributors were still in the consideration phase.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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