Today's remarkable attack by former Arkansas GOP Governor Mike Huckabee on his ex-08 nomination rival Mitt Romney marks the starting gun in the race for for the Republican nomination of 2012.
Huckabee's criticism of Romney's as potential McCain Veep and his willingness to cite Romney's alleged weakness with so-called "values voters" was not just a warning shot on behalf of evangelical dissatisfaction with Romney, but also a clear indication of the far greater problems that would await McCain should he act on his hinted willingness to go with pro-choice ex-PA Governor Tom Ridge. This should in turn push McCain away from the logical electoral choice of Romney and towards his own likely personal pick of Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty.
More generally, since the end of the GOP nomination battle I have been fascinated by the two's very different attempts to curry favour with the GOP faithful in advance of 2012. Romney swallowed his pride and took up the baton of party loyalist, falling into lockstep behind his once deadly rival John McCain. His hope: win the nod of the party elders for sterling service in the cause of a doomed campaign. Hucakbee, true to his style and the nature of his Iowa upset victory over once-favoured Romney, has taken the path of party building (i.e. fundraising for down-ballot GOPers) at the grassroots level.
Historically, the GOP has rewarded it's silver medal loyalists - think Reagan in '76 and then in '80, Dole '76 then '96, G.H.W. Bush '80 and '88 and indeed McCain '00 and '08 - with a later gold in a subsequent nomination fight. This points to Romney's move being the more sure path to the 2012 GOP nod. Huckabee's less orthodox route fits better with both his personality and his circumstance given the loathing he engenders from GOP gatekeepers like the anti-tax Club for Growth.
Lastly, what do both Romney and Huckabee have in common? Simply put, I reckon if you put them on sodium penathol both would admit they hope that Barack Obama, not their supposed party standard bearer, wins the White House...