Mike Huckabee consistently is ranked either as the first or second choice for President in 2012 by Republican voters. But, thus far, he hasn’t made a decision on whether he wants to seek the position. Well, that will change soon. According to Real Clear Politics, Fox News, his employer, has told Huckabee that he must make a decision by the end of this month or lose his job. Many analyst have speculated that one reason for Huckabee’s reticence in declaring his Presidential intentions is that he is paid a great deal of money for his program on the news network. Since he does not have a great deal of wealth, he has been reluctant to recuse himself from his television job. Earlier this year, two of the analysts for Fox, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, were forced off the network when they refused to make their own Presidential ambitions clear.

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Photographer: David Ball

For months, people have speculated on what the former Arkansas Governor will decide. Although a number who have read the tea leaves have conjectured that he will recuse himself this time around, his 2008 campaign chair, Ed Rollins, has already started work on developing the 2012 campaign. The urgency for his decision has accelerated since Haley Barbour announced that he had made the determination not to seek the office. The reason for this is that both of the two southerners share much of the same voter appeal and are presumed to have the same base. They are both pleasant, likeable individuals with known policy positions, which is a commodity in short supply thus far in the race.

Rollins, according to the article, has already put together a number of the essential elements of a campaign team, including a fundraising team, a media team, a political director, and an opposition researcher. He has also begun discussions with a polling firm.

If Huckabee does decide to enter, it will radically alter the landscape of the contest. It would make the race much more perilous for other candidates, since he is likely to win in South Carolina, and will be favored to win in the Iowa caucuses. Since Romney will probably win in New Hampshire and Nevada, this means that none of the other candidates would have the chance to win any state until the main round of states begins in the spring. Virtually no candidate can keep their fundraising operation alive for that long without something substantial to show for their efforts. This is the problem for many of the lower tier candidates. As Gingrich and Santorum have learned during this campaign, it is one thing to build support when you are on a network where Republican voters consistently see them and hear their views. Once that lifeline is cut off, maintaining voter excitement is much more problematic.