Yeah, granted, it’s practically home-field advantage for a former governor of Arkansas, but it’s also evidence of Huck’s abiding strength in the south even as Palin’s national profile expands. How’s this for a three-way race: Mitt captures the northeast, Huck takes dixie, and Sarahcuda uses her Jacksonian cred to grab the plains states. And then everything comes down to … California.

I shiver at the traffic possibilities.

If Huckabee chooses to run again in 2012, something that is far from a sure thing, he will again be formidable in early states such as Iowa and South Carolina, where much of the Republican base consists of social conservatives.

“Huckabee has a good regional appeal due to his Southern status and residual support,” said Mike Baselice, the Texas-based GOP pollster who conducted the survey. “People vote for who they know and like.”

According to the poll, Huckabee also leads Palin by 10 points among Republicans who describe themselves as “very conservative.” His lead grows to 16 points among Republicans who say they’re “somewhat conservative.”

“I’m a little surprised about Palin’s numbers, but Alabama has a strong tea party movement, with which she has strong appeal,” said Brent Buchanan, whose Alabama-based firm, Public Strategy Associates, commissioned the poll.

“You don’t need to be a winger to like Huckabee, in other words,” says Matt Continetti of that boldfaced bit, but I wonder if the six-point bump among moderates has more to do with Huck’s alleged centrist appeal or with anti-Palin sentiment among moderate conservatives. Remember, a Fox News poll last month showed that 17 percent of Republicans would cross over to vote for Obama if she’s the nominee compared to just nine percent if the nominee is Romney. Which means, as her star rises, we may start seeing an intramural version within the GOP of the Palin polarization that affects Democrats and Republicans, with centrist conservatives taking an “anyone but Sarah” approach to counter the tea-party movement’s “no one but Sarah” sentiment.

Exit quotation via Continetti: “A primary that pits the powers-that-be against social conservatives and Tea Party nation will be nasty (but fun!).” Er, yeah. Wouldn’t it also tear the GOP apart, suppress turnout in the general election, and all but guarantee Obama’s reelection?