Guessing which Republican presidential candidate will receive the endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has recently turned into a parlor game among the party faithful, especially with the approach of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, which Huckabee won in 2008.
But the speculation can stop — at least for now. Huckabee, presently a Fox News commentator, says he won’t endorse a candidate before Iowa, and probably for the duration of the primaries.
"I really doubt I will endorse anyone in the primary process," the popular conservative told Yahoo News
. "I'm still holding the right to do that, but I don't see at this point a reason it makes a whole lot of sense for me."
And why is he staying neutral? "If I were to endorse one of the candidates, I would have one ingrate and several other people who would hate my guts for the rest of time," Huckabee quipped.
More seriously, he said he simply hasn’t made up his mind whom he supports. "If the election were held today, I'd struggle to choose which candidate I'd mark the ballot for," Huckabee said. He noted that many of his friends and former supporters feel the same way.
Recent rumors had it that Huckabee was close to endorsing front-runner Mitt Romney. But some of Huckabee’s comments to Yahoo hinted at lingering animosity toward the former Massachusetts governor, a major adversary in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Huckabee said he doesn't "bear a grudge" against Romney but cited the moderate’s attempt to "win almost by intimidation" in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. "We were opponents four years ago, so it's hard to really 'like' the person you are running against," Huckabee said.
"I've said this to many people and I'll say it again: Whether he's my first choice is irrelevant, if he's the nominee, I'm going to vigorously support him."
Huckabee acknowledges a bit of second-guessing over his own decision to stay out of the presidential race this time around. "There are moments in which I watch a debate, and I think, 'Gee, I would have said it this way,'" he said.
"And there are times when I think if I were in the race, I'd probably be doing very well in Iowa and South Carolina. I think I'd probably be doing pretty good in New Hampshire. I could well be on my way to the nomination."
Huckabee says he misses Pizza Ranch, the Iowa restaurant chain where he hosted most of his campaign events in 2008.
But the folksy Republican says he’s happy to do without the exhausting work of a campaign, raising money and dealing with broadsides from opponents and anonymous special interest groups. "I am not regretful of my decision."
Huckabee is hosting two presidential candidate forums before the Iowa caucuses — on Dec. 3 and Dec. 14.
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