Mike Huckabee
Jacquelyn Martin  /  AP
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks in Washington on Sept. 17, 2010. Huckabee isn't tamping down speculation of another presidential run. He also isn't doing much to prepare for one.
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updated 2/24/2011 1:49:51 PM ET 2011-02-24T18:49:51

Mike Huckabee isn't tamping down speculation of another presidential run. But he isn't doing much to prepare for what on Thursday he called the "sausage grinder of a campaign."

The winner of the Iowa caucuses in 2008 doesn't sound all that enthusiastic about another bid as he travels on a nationwide book tour that includes early GOP primary states.

Also calling into question how seriously the former Baptist pastor is weighing a candidacy: He plans to spend part of the summer in Alaska hosting a cruise, some of his former aides aren't waiting around for him to make a decision and Huckabee even offered up kind words for President Barack Obama, his would-be rival in 2012, and his family.

Video: Will Huckabee run for president again? (on this page)
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"Frankly, America needs a good role model like that," Huckabee said Thursday of Obama, the nation's first black president.

As for his own timeline, Huckabee said he is in no rush to start spending money on a campaign.

"The question that you're probably going to ask is 'are you going to run?' The question that I have for America is 'do you think this message resonates with you?'" Huckabee said. "If it does, that gives me a whole lot more encouragement to go put myself through the sausage grinder of a campaign."

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

Mixed signals
It's hardly the first mixed signal about his interest in the 2012 race, which so far has drawn no declared candidates.

Many of the key players from Huckabee's 2008 bid have moved on. Former campaign manager Chip Saltsman now works for freshman Republican Congressman Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, and former campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart took a job at the beginning of the year as a deputy to Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, a Republican.

"It's one of those situations where he hasn't made up his mind, and we all have bills to pay, so we need to keep the money coming in," Stewart said. "In the event he decides to run, a lot of folks will revisit that."

Huckabee is doing just enough to remain a credible contender but is hardly clamoring to position himself as the front-runner in a second attempt at the White House.

Though the former governor remains a presence in Arkansas, he's no longer a resident of the state. He and his wife last year moved their residency and their voter registration to Florida, where he has a home under construction.

He has remained in contact with his supporters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina but hasn't been aggressive in his fundraising. He has maintained a national profile through his job with the Fox News Channel but hasn't rushed to insert himself into the daily back and forth the way some of his other potential rivals have.

Part of that calculation is financial; he is expected to leave his job at Fox should he run.

"I need to make sure I'm ready to give up my job to declare my candidacy," Huckabee said. "The day I say, 'I'm running,' that's the day I don't have an income."

And he will be spending a week at sea in June, playing host to tourists paying as much as $3,000 to spend seven days visiting Alaska.

Rex Nelson, a former aide to Huckabee when he was governor, said that the mixed messages aren't just an act, and he believes the former governor is truly torn about his future plans, especially when weighed against the lucrative opportunities of his television and radio jobs.

Other possible '12 contenders
Republicans have yet to rally behind any of the potential candidates, none of whom has formally entered the race. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is in the process of putting together a presidential committee. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another 2008 candidate, is unlikely to launch his expected campaign before April.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to decide in the coming weeks. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is talking with activists and operatives about a potential campaign, as is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has been rolling out advisers but has yet to formally enter the race.

And Sarah Palin, her party's 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, has sustained a national profile and remains an open question for the Republicans.

Story: Poll: Palin most polarizing of 2012 crowd

None has yet taken the public steps of starting a campaign, in part because of the uncertainty of the field and in part because of costs.

It's a far cry from January 2007, when Huckabee joined the early flood of 2008 candidates — just weeks after leaving office.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Will Huckabee run for president again?

  1. Closed captioning of: Will Huckabee run for president again?

    >>> is mike huckabee throwing a mitt fit? that could make mike huckabee run for president. jeanne cummings joins us. that would not be the greatest motivation to run for the highest office in the land, the score settling. what is the root of the feud?

    >> the head of huckabee's political action committee says he won't get in for that reason. if he gets in he will because he feels like he has something to offer as a candidate. however, might be a bonus if he could clean romney's clock in iowa and a few over states. the root of it is basically iowa. the two of them went at it hard, hard, hard in 2008 and it left a lot of bad feelings.

    >> somewhat of a class war as well. you have the patrician mitt romney most recently from massachusetts even though he had roots out west and mike huckabee who had one point was living in a triple wide when they were renovating the arkansas governor 's mansion.

    >> absolutely. there is definitely some class warfare going on. there is a wonderful quote from his book, huckabee talking about romney and how he changed positions on certain issues. he was anything but conservative until he changed all his lightbulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president.

    >> there you have it. jeanne cummings, thank you very much from politico.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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