I knew you guys hated him, but not until I saw the results of this weekend’s Hot Air mega-poll did I realize how much. Out of 17 presidential candidates named, he finished … 15th, just eight votes ahead of Rick Santorum and 10 votes ahead of, er, Donald Trump. Palin won the poll with 1181 votes and Chris Christie came second with 745. Huckabee’s total take: 32. Dude?

The word on the primaries lately from everyone from Palin to Rove is that competition is wunderbar, that the more candidates we have battling for the nomination, the better served voters are by having more options, etc. Just wondering: Does that logic apply to Huck too? Think carefully before you answer, because if there’s anyone who’s poised to hurt Palin by peeling off social cons, blue-collar voters, and women (yes, really), it’s him.

“I just don’t understand how it is that a person can read these polls day after day and the narrative is constantly everybody but me,” he told POLITICO. “Whether I do it or not, the fact is that if one looks at the overall body of information that’s available, nobody would be in a better position to take it all the way to November.”…

“For me, later is better,” he said, suggesting that he’d ruled out making a decision in the first quarter of next year. Advisers differ on how late he could jump in, but Vander Plaats said he’d advise Huckabee to wait until extremely late — after the August Iowa GOP straw poll — to survey the lay of the land and make up his mind…

Yet he gets only a fraction of the attention Palin enjoys — something that plainly chafes him.

“She’s brought an enormous amount of energy to the party. As to why she seemingly draws ten times the attention, I don’t know,” he said, touting recent book signings of his that had drawn up to 1,400 people, with no note in the media.

“You’re never going to read that. I’m never going to be breaking news because I made a comment on Twitter and Facebook. Why is that? I don’t know,” he said.

It’s not a done deal that he’s running. He had to scrounge for funds to keep his campaign going two years ago and he just took out a huge mortgage to build his new home in Florida, so unless he’s got evangelical leaders ready to help him pass the collection plate around, money is a major issue. Even so, if Palin decides not to run and Mitt looks like a prohibitive frontrunner early, does anyone seriously think he won’t jump in? Social conservative votes will be there for the taking, and you know he’s just itching to vanquish that pointy-headed white-collar Romney who went to all the right schools ‘n stuff. If Palin does run then his decision is tougher, since the longer he waits, the more time she’ll have to solidify her support among the same constituencies he’s targeting. Of course, jumping in early might not help against her either. Huck acknowledged a few weeks ago that she could run away with the whole thing, and I’m guessing he wouldn’t be thrilled with an outcome whereby he and she enable a Romney victory by splitting base voters.

Here’s a fascinating possibility, though. What if Palin jumps out to a big early lead in the polls and Mitt is struggling to gain traction? In that case, establishment Republicans will quickly turn desperate looking for someone who can stop her in the primary and stand a chance of beating Obama in the general. I mentioned Mike Pence as a guy who might fit that bill in a post last week, but Pence is potentially a tough sell because his name recognition is low even among Republicans. Huckabee’s is much higher so he could bounce into contention right away even after a Thompson-esque late entry. Which raises the question: Would Beltway insiders grit their teeth and back Huck if it looked like he was the only candidate available who could beat Sarahcuda? Imagine the magic that a Rove/Huckabee partnership would make, my friends. Imagine it.

Just as I’m writing this, PPP is out with a new poll of the crucial swing state of Missouri. Huckabee 27, Palin 25, Gingrich 15, Romney 14. How can Huck say no? Exit question: Seriously, guys, 32 votes?