Mike Huckabee: If I don't finish top three in Iowa, I'm done

Not actually true. It’d be more accurate to say that if he doesn’t win Iowa outright, he’s done.

Even more accurate: If he does win Iowa, he’s still done.

The former governor of Arkansas — who’s been a long-shot candidate relegated to the undercard primary debates during the 2016 presidential campaign — told Iowa radio host Simon Conway on Wednesday night, “If we can’t come within striking distance of the victory or win it, then I think we recognize that it’s going to be hard to take that onto the other states.”…

“Well, I mean historically, we’ve always said there are three tickets out of Iowa, you have to come in No. 1, 2 or 3. I think in many ways that’s probably still the case,” he said.

“It may be that if you’re a close second or a close third, that’s very good. If you’re a distant third, then maybe there’s not a way to go on. I think you have a good hard look at it after Iowa.”

If Huckabee finishes a close third in Iowa, it may be Ted Cruz who’s effectively done. A split evangelical vote among the two, especially with Carson picking off a few social conservatives here and there, might be enough to let Trump sneak through for the win. Cruz will soldier on, as his campaign is built for a long run, but the media will brutalize him for losing in what was supposed to be his must-win state. If he doesn’t bounce back and win South Carolina, the narrative will be that “Ted Cruz just can’t seal the deal.” And that’s a possibility if Huck finishes a close third in Iowa: He’d be encouraged by that to roll on to SC, which he nearly won in 2008, and that would divide the social-con vote there too.

But never mind all that. Huckabee’s not going to finish a close third in Iowa; there’s a fair chance he won’t even crack the top five. One of the amazing details about this year’s primaries that’s been lost in the flood of Trump coverage is how pitifully bad he and Santorum have done in Iowa polling so far. They’ve both won the caucuses before; they were each the last man standing against the eventual GOP nominee in the year that they ran. By dint of pure personal affection from Iowa voters, you would think they’d both be polling in the high single digits at a minimum. In reality, Huckabee’s averaging 2.3 percent in RCP’s poll average while Santorum’s pulling 0.6 percent. Yes, really — the last two winners in Iowa can’t quite combine for three percent of the vote. And it’s not like either of them has experienced a Carson-esque surge and fall. Huckabee’s topped four percent in just one poll since the start of October while Santorum hasn’t seen three percent since early September. Iowa’s been trying on different hats for the past six months, first Scott Walker, then Trump, then Carson, and now Cruz, who’s not going to fade barring some sort of scandal. Huck and Santorum never got a look. Why is that? Their theory of the race, that Cruz would be a minor factor, was obviously incorrect but that doesn’t account for how badly they’re trailing, especially in a cycle where Trump has proved there’s a market out there for blue-collar voters who aren’t sticklers for conservative purity. Six months ago, you would have said that Rubio and Cruz each have some major challenges in their “lanes” of the primary: Rubio would need to outflank Christie, Kasich, and Bush in New Hampshire and Cruz would need to outflank Huckabee, Santorum, and Carson in Iowa. Rubio’s struggling with that challenge to this day while Cruz is on a cakewalk in his. How come? Is Cruz’s organization that much better or are Rubio’s opponents that much better funded than Cruz’s are?

By the way, here’s the new ad from Huckabee’s Super PAC attacking Cruz for supposedly talking out of both sides of his mouth on gay marriage, which is not actually true at all but might represent Huck’s last chance to gain a foothold in Iowa. Before you listen, let me refresh your memory about what Cruz said at his fundraiser in Manhattan a few weeks ago:

Same questioner: “So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?”

Cruz: “No. I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty, stopping courts from making public policy issues that are left to the people. …

“I also think the 10th Amendment of the Constitution cuts across a whole lot of issues and can bring people together. People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.”

Now listen to the ad and see what Team Huck does with that quote. Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friends.

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