Huckabee to announce decision on campaign tomorrow; Update: Ed Rollins thinks he's not running

Looks like announcement season has heated up.  Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul both made announcements this week, and Herman Cain has a rally scheduled in eight days for his formal announcement.  Now the producer of Mike Huckabee’s television show says that the 2008 GOP runner-up will use his show tomorrow night to announce … something:

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, will announce on Saturday whether he will run for president, the producer of his show on the Fox News Channel said Friday.

“Governor Huckabee will announce tomorrow night on his program whether or not he intends to explore a presidential bid,” Woody Fraser, the executive producer of “Huckabee” said in a statement. “He has not told anyone at FOX News Channel his decision.”

Senior political aides to Mr. Huckabee also said Friday they do not know what he will decide, raising suspicions that Mr. Huckabee will take a pass on another campaign.

If he’s announcing an exploratory committee launch, then it will be his last show for the next 18 months, at least.  Fox had supposedly been pressuring Huckabee for an answer (which Huckabee denied).  If he wants to take the pressure off and stay out of the race, then a quick announcement on a Saturday night makes a lot of sense.

On the other hand, Huckabee does pretty well in polling, usually running neck-and-neck with Romney for the top spot.  Not too many people would pass on that kind of opening, not unless they really didn’t want to spend the next year fighting for the nomination.  That kind of temptation would normally keep someone in the maybe column for as long as possible.

Last thought: Michael Shear sounds pretty skeptical in his report that Fox would allow any of its contributors to launch a campaign on their platform, which Republican strategist Ed Rollins also questions.  They probably wouldn’t mind the ratings, but I’d guess that Shear and Rollins are correct, and that Huckabee will take a pass.

Update (AP): If he’s running, he’s kept it an awfully tight secret:

Ed Rollins, who directed his 2008 campaign and has been organizing his 2012 campaign-in-waiting, said he has not been consulted.

“I’ve heard nothing, which indicates to me he’s not running,” Mr. Rollins said in an interview…

“He has by far the clearest path to the nomination of all the 2012 candidates,” one of the would-be Huckabee team said.

But several member of the inner circle said Friday that they had no knowledge of what Mr. Huckabee planned to announce, and were dumbfounded that he had kept his own would-be campaign in the dark. Mr. Huckabee has already seen most of his main operatives in Iowa and New Hampshire gobbled up by competing campaigns.

Rollins told the NYT, “There was a tremendous opportunity for him to be a viable, credible candidate. I think Mike has got unique talents but he just didn’t have the fire in the belly. I can’t want it more than the candidate does.” Either this is the head fake to end all head fakes or, yeah, he’s really not running. Having Huckabee swoop into Iowa and lock up a chunk of social conservatives would have made things very hard for Palin, especially since he’s got the skeleton of a successful state operation left over there from 2008 and she doesn’t. Now the social con field is wide open and waiting for a big name to enter. If she was thinking of staying out, this should tilt her in the other direction.

Update (AP): Thinking this through a bit further, if he’s really decided not to run, why announce it publicly now? The 2012 speculation is good for his media profile and, presumably, for his ratings. If the Fox people are pressuring him, he could reassure them privately that he’s sticking with his show; they have an incentive to keep that hush-hush for the same reason Huck does, to keep his name in the news. The only reason I can come up with is that he doesn’t want his 2008 team stuck in limbo when there are high-paying campaign jobs out there for the taking right now. But that only makes it stranger that he hasn’t tipped his inner circle to his decision yet. Unless he decided literally within the past few hours, he should have told them ASAP that they’re free to look for 2012 work elsewhere.