Neither of them will be onstage tonight but this is ideal pre-debate blog fodder. There’s bad blood here and that could be a big deal five months from now when caucus time arrives.

“It’s a tactical blunder … The people of Iowa work very hard to make the straw poll the biggest political moment in the summer,” Huckabee said. “If you have a candidate who says, ‘You know what, I’m not gonna be there, I’m gonna be over in South Carolina, trying to pull as much attention as possible away from your big event’ – I’ll tell you, the people of Iowa are gracious, loving, kind people, and they’re not gonna take kindly to someone, in essence, dissing their big event. Which is what it will be reviewed as in the state of Iowa.”…

Huckabee, who came in second in the 2007 Ames straw poll, likened the presidential primary process to a marathon, advising: “You don’t get to start at mile No. 6.”…

He predicted: “You watch, the other candidates will beat the daylights out of him for not respecting the Iowa straw poll. So will the Iowa Republican Party. And out there, just sort of the conversation on the streets, will be that it was bad form.”

Not the first time that Perry’s been sneered at for bigfooting the straw poll, but it is the first time that someone’s dismissed his Saturday announcement in South Carolina on grounds that, and I quote, only “the B-team of national political reporters” will be there. Good lord. Most readers already know the backstory here, but if you don’t, this post by Kay Henderson recounts the drama. Perry broke Huckabee’s heart by not endorsing him in 2007, stating flatly at the time, “I just don’t think he can win.” The candidate whom Perry did think could win and whom he did endorse? Er, Rudy Giuliani. Huck hasn’t forgotten. A few weeks ago he included this acidic line about Perry in an e-mail to contributors to his PAC: “For all his new found commitment to hyper-conservatism, he’ll get to explain why he supported pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage Rudy Guiliani last time.” He also pointedly neglected to mention Perry when asked in June about which candidate he might support this time.

Here’s where you say, “Who cares what Huckabee thinks?” Well, Iowans do, potentially, especially social conservatives who backed him three years ago. Huckabee’s going to be there this weekend to mingle; Cain, Pawlenty, and Santorum have arranged for him to jam with the band in each of their tents as a testament to his abiding influence in the state. Which raises a tantalizing question: What happens if Iowa turns into a three-way race between Romney, Perry, and Bachmann, with Perry holding a slight lead? Winning the caucuses would catapult him to frontrunner status and maybe give him a shot to bump off Romney in New Hampshire and run the table. Huckabee, for all the reasons above, won’t be thrilled with that and might try to tip the balance against him with an eleventh-hour endorsement. But who does he endorse? Bachmann would seem the obvious choice given her social conservative pedigree, but Bachmann almost certainly won’t stop Romney in New Hampshire and might not even stop him in South Carolina if the GOP establishment lines up against her on electability grounds. I can’t believe I’m asking this, but would Huckabee ever consider endorsing … Mitt Romney? Romney might be the only candidate in the field capable of stopping Perry in a long fight to the nomination. And don’t forget that Huck did have some kind words for Mitt not long ago. What if it happened? Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria.