Huckabee exit an opportunity for those unlike him

THOMAS BEAUMONT

Published: Thursday, May 19 2011 1:11 a.m. MDT

Mitt Romney, center, greets supporters during a phone bank fundraiser, Monday, May 16, 2011, in Las Vegas. The former Massachusetts Gov. and likely GOP presidential contender worked with volunteers to reach out to voters and donors through cell phones and computers in a bid to raise money.

Julie Jacobson, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — No single Republican stands ready to fill the gap that Mike Huckabee is leaving in the 2012 field for president.

Those who do benefit from his decision not to run may bear little resemblance to the former Arkansas governor and one-time Baptist minister.

GOP operatives say the opportunity may be even greater for someone with stature as a budget cutter.

A leader of Iowa social conservatives, Bob Vander Plaats, says the momentum might be going to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or the current governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, though Daniels hasn't taken steps to join the race. Both are likely to run on their economic records.

Early indications point to Huckabee's backers splintering among several candidates, leaving a wide-open race even more scrambled.

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