Huckabee Poised to Neutralize Palin for 2012

A 2012 Huckabee bid could neutralize Palin and deliver the nomination to Romney.

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A familiar dynamic is emerging in the GOP’s 2012 presidential primary: Mike Huckabee could be the spoiler who delivers the nomination to the party establishment’s favored horse.

According to a recent PPP poll (h/t Andrew Sullivan), the former Arkansas governor is running strong in the early battleground of Iowa:

The key to Huckabee's success is the ability to unite the disparate ideological factions of the Republican Party. 31% of voters think the party's too liberal and with them Huckabee has a 26-21 lead over Gingrich, with Palin a little surprisingly coming in further back at 16%. 48% are comfortable with where the party is ideologically and they go for Huckabee too, by a 33-23 margin over Romney. Huckabee comes in a close second behind Romney with the small group of voters who think the party's too conservative, 27-23.

Huckabee, you’ll recall, won the Iowa caucus in 2008, and, on the strength of that victory, became a devilish and scrappy obstacle for Mitt Romney. Huckabee effectively neutralized the flip-flopping Romney’s appeal among the conservative base—a role for which he barely concealed his delight. [Read more about the 2012 presidential election.]

This time around, Romney will be in a position more akin to McCain’s in 2008: the putative frontrunner around whom the establishment is ready to coalesce.

Huckabee has a potentially thorny choice to make: If, in 2012, the ceiling of his support remains more or less what it was in ’08, Huckabee could end up neutralizing Sarah Palin—and delivering the nomination to his bete noire Romney.

Will he risk it?