Analysts: Pawlenty, Bachmann stand to gain from Huckabee staying out

WASHINGTON — Mike Huckabee was never really in the 2012 presidential race, but it wasn’t until last weekend that he finally confirmed he’d be out. And while that news may not have been a massive surprise, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses was leading the GOP field in many hypothetical polls and certainly leaves a hole in the field.

At least one national outlet said Huckabee staying out makes it almost certain that Michele Bachmann fully jumps in the race in June, while most pundits seem to see an opening for Tim Pawlenty. Here’s a look at what they’re saying:

Jan Crawford, CBS News

“The one person I think benefits most (from Huckabee’s decision) and gets the biggest boost from this is … Bachmann,
 Crawford said on The Early Show Monday. “Her advisers tell me they never thought Huckabee would run. That’s why she’d been taking a hard look at getting into this race. But (on Sunday), sources close to Bachmann told me they really see a real opening for her, and they expect her to get into the race as soon as June.”

Crawford followed later on Monday with this quote, from an unnamed “senior adviser.”

“Michele has been receiving an outpouring of encouragement to run for president — increased phone calls and online messaging,” said a senior adviser. “I can now say it is very likely she will decide to run for president.”

MinnPost could not immediately confirm Crawford’s reporting, but Bachmann’s recent donation e-mails, asking for money from those who think she should stay in Congress and more money from those who want her to run, certainly read like someone flirting more and more with fully getting in.

Nate Silver, New York Times’ “FiveThirtyEight” blog

Silver sees benefits for Pawlenty, particularly in Iowa, but warns that the expectations are now higher. And though he might be tempted to move even further to the right to better appeal to Huckabee fans, Silver says that would be a mistake.

“The other risk for Mr. Pawlenty would lie in his moving too far to his right to fill the void left by Mr. Huckabee. Although Mr. Pawlenty’s positions are quite conservative when you look under the hood, he is often perceived as a moderate, and that will work to his benefit in states like New Hampshire. But it’s a difficult balance to strike, especially for a candidate who does not sweep voters off their feet, and must instead make very strong tactical decisions. So far, Mr. Pawlenty has done that, but we’re entering a different phase of the race now.”

As for Bachmann, Silver writes that Iowa is a win-or-go-home state for her.

“Iowa is almost certainly a must-win for Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota. It’s quite possibly her strongest state, given its conservative leanings and the fact that she was born in Waterloo and has the backing of some key elected officials there. If Ms. Bachmann does not win this contest, it’s hard to see how she will become anything other than a footnote in the campaign.”

Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Cillizza lists Bachmann as the top “winner” in his “winners and losers” list following Huck’s staying out. Says The Fix: Assuming Sarah Palin stays out, Michele Bachmann is now the top social conservative in the race.

“Given the power that social conservatives hold in the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary — two of the first four nominating contests — emerging as the preferred candidate of that group would give Bachmann a real foothold in the race.”

Doug Wead, Newsmax

There are a lot of “if’s” in Wead’s somewhat speculative analysis, but they read like a wish list for Team TPaw. Here’s the kicker:

“With Hucakabee out of the race and providing that Sarah Palin follows the Huck into retirement and the television – lecture circuit, it is all doable for Pawlenty. You have been warned, this obscure, quiet governor from the Midwest may just come roaring to the front of the pack. The pieces are in place for a dark horse, Tim Pawlenty, upset in Iowa and you just may be able to ride that dark horse all the way to the White House.”

Kevin McCullough

McCollough dissents from all that happy talk. He says everyone left in the GOP 2012 field, now that Huck is firmly out, is lacking. And then he goes on

“With Saturday’s official announcement from Huckabee, America doesn’t have a candidate who has announced a run for the presidency who makes a clear distinction between right and wrong, who can separate common sense from stupidity, and who speaks directly and plainly to the hearts of the voters.”

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