Death Watch: Mike Huckabee

Over the last few weeks we’ve been trying to calculate the candidates’ expiration dates in our Death Watch series . See our pre-mortem death watch for Rudy Giuliani here .

Mike Huckabee does not have delusions of grandeur for Florida. The day after South Carolina, he said he might not have enough money or support to compete with Romney or McCain, so he hedged his bets. He flitted back and forth all week between Georgia and Tennessee, and he’ll watch tonight’s returns in the latter Missouri*. But don’t expect Huckabee to drop out after today, not when he can still do so much damage.  

Huckabee won’t win, but he can drag Romney down with him. Huckabee joined the ranks of the walking dead after he lost South Carolina and his money dried up. But unlike Bill Richardson as he faded away, Huckabee actually has some bite left. If the race becomes a McCromney affair, only Mike Huckabee can stop evangelicals from gravitating toward Mitt. Lately, it seems he’s been auditioning for a role as McCain’s VP, and rightly so: If Johnny Mac wins Florida, it will be partly thanks to Huckabee.

With the opportunity to eat fried-squirrel at official White House dinners, don’t expect Huck to buck the trail quite yet. If he finishes third in Florida ( he’s polling fourth ), he can gush out a Huckabeeism about David (Huck) defeating Goliath (Rudy) that may get him some mileage. From there, he’ll stay in the South and try to siphon enough votes away from Romney to clear the path for McCain. Ironically, Huckabee is now playing the same role for Romney that Fred Thompson played for him in South Carolina. But if nominated, McCain would sooner make Huckabee the VP than Thompson. The old yet virile war hero and the young but inexperienced spark plug—it’s a match made in heaven, aside from that whole modifying-the-constitution -to-fit-God’s-will part.

*UPDATE 5:56 p.m. PST: Originally this post misstated that Huckabee was spending the night in Tennessee. He was in Missouri.