In 2008, Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee emerged from a crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls to win the Iowa caucuses and become the preferred candidate of social conservatives. Could Huckabee play the dark horse again in 2012? A sampling of opinions as to how Huckabee presence (or lack thereof) will shape the fight for the Republican nomination:

  • Under The Radar  Politico's Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith note Huckabee's position right now is similar to where he was at this point in the 2008 cycle, operating in relative obscurity while boldfaced names like Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani gobbled up donors, staffers, and media attention. Huckabee seems "bound once again to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the field," but it's a role he knows how to play. If he decides not to run, Martin and Smith believe the result would be "a vacuum on the right among both religious conservatives and tea party activists that would significantly reorder the race and potentially create a larger opening for Palin."
  • Too Late?  The Daily Caller's Aaron Guerrero can't shake the feeling Huckabee is skittish about waging another bruising national campaign. His "recent critiques of the presidential process are hardly reflective of someone interested in grinding it out for the prize of party standard-bearer." Unlike Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Huckabee has not amassed the "necessary infrastructure for making a serious run" or won over the "skeptics within the Republican establishment [and] heavyweight voices in talk radio" who had concerns about his first bid for the nomination.
  • Limited Audience  The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin believes Huckabee's strength as a 2012 contender has been overstated. Yes, he put together a nice run in 2008, but his appeal was limited to a "specific segment of voters--evangelical Christians." As the Tea Party's influence increases, the GOP platform is trending towards a "small government agenda [that] doesn't match up all that well with Huckabee's record as governor." Unless Huckabee demonstrates "greater range than in 2008," his 2012 chances are slim.
  • Palin-Stopper  Of all the potential 2012 candidate, Huckabee poses the greatest threat to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's coalition, argues conservative blogger Allahpundit. Huckabee is "poised to hurt Palin by peeling off social cons, blue-collar voters, and women (yes, really), it's him." The one limiting factor is money. Without "evangelical leaders ready to help him pass the collection plate around," Huckabee's fundraising apparatus could be even more limited than the one he had in 2008.