This is significant. Mike Huckabee's not running. I'm not a fan of Huckabee's fiscal liberalism, but he has a very formidable following. Evangelicals, especially in the South, but also to a lesser extent elsewhere, absolutely love the guy. Libertarian leaning voters, as well as business voters don't care for him. Gun rights groups like him, but other candidates as well.
Huckabee had a longshot chance at the nomination. In terms of his chances verses Obama, I'd have them higher than most of the candidates (including Romney, who's IMO one of the least electable), but behind Pawlenty, Daniels, and Huntsman.
Who does this help? Who does this hurt?
Pawlenty - Pawlenty's a northern Evangelical. He's not as charismatic as Huckabee is, but is the same type of social conservative, although in a much different style. He's also less apt to blunder in his comments. I think he could be the big winner in this group.
Herman Cain - Businessman and former talk show host. Those who don't like the establishment folks or "politicians" and aren't as libertarian as Ron Paul or Gary Johnson may be supporting Cain as the protest vote favorite of 2012. Cain supposedly did very well in the South Carolina debate. He's never held elected office, although has his following.
Palin - If she runs, she doesn't have to fight Huckabee for the right-populist vote.
Romney - The media is claiming Romney is the frontrunner. He's kind of the McCain of 2012 in a way. Romney avoided some of the "RINO" accusations in 2008 because McCain was the guy always in the camera. That's despite McCain, who wasn't my favorite, being slightly more conservative record-wise than Romney (anti-gun as well as Romneycare). Unlike McCain 08, Romney has a lot of establishment backing. Romney's best chance is the same as McCain 08 - Base vote carved up from others.
Mitch Daniels - Daniels has mixed reviews from social conservatives due to his "truce" comments. Personally I think they have been misinterpreted since his actions on issues hasn't been bad. However he's not "one of them" as much as a Huckabee. Daniels is a number's guy. The only thing that Daniels can take advantage of however is the outsider role after 8 years as Indiana Governor.
Huntsman - He's what George W Bush was in 2000 if he was "George Schultz" instead. "Compassionate Conservative" circa 2012. I'm not AS against him as some are, although I do not like his global warming stance at all. Tough issue for me to get past as I'm from an auto industry family of Michiganders.
Ron Paul - Different base of supporters.
Gary Johnson - Same reasons as Ron Paul.
I didn't include Gingrich, Bachmann, Trump, Santorum, or Roemer because either I don't think they are running (Bachmann), or because I think they will go nowhere in the races for various reasons (Gingrich).
I'm probably not going to make an endorsement until the fall Mackinac Conference. I'm leaning in a direction, but I'm not quite there yet. There's a couple of issues I still need to find out more information first.