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Huckabee toys with White House run

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2011 1:10 a.m. MST

Republicans have yet to rally behind any of the potential candidates, none of whom has formally entered the race. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is in the process of putting together a presidential committee. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another 2008 candidate, is unlikely to launch his expected campaign before April.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to decide in the coming weeks. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is talking with activists and operatives about a potential campaign, as is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

And Sarah Palin, her party's 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, has sustained a national profile and remains an open question for the Republicans.

None has yet taken the public steps of starting a campaign, in part because of the uncertainty of the field and in part because of costs. The minute a campaign begins, candidates find themselves on the phone for hours with donors each day to pay for the offices, the staff and the travel.

It's a far cry from January 2007, when Huckabee joined the early flood of 2008 candidates — just weeks after leaving office.

A second national campaign is tempting for Huckabee, whose party tends to favor candidates who make a second run. Should he seek the nomination, Huckabee enjoys high name recognition and a populist message that could find a receptive audience among tea party-style activists.

Huckabee also enjoys the highest favorable ratings among those mulling bids. A CNN/Opinion Research poll in January found 72 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him.

Eric Woolson, who managed Huckabee's Iowa campaign in 2008, said Huckabee's supporters in the state are waiting to see what Huckabee plans to do. Woolson said any candidate faces the danger of entering too late but said Huckabee has the benefit this time around of being a much better known quantity than he was in 2008, adding:

"He was starting out as an asterisk last time."

DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Ark.

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