Pawlenty, who attends an evangelical church and rarely misses a chance to emphasize his blue-collar roots, is likely to make an aggressive play for the Huckabee vote, as will a host of other candidates hoping to reprise the dark-horse role the Arkansan played in 2008.
Several strategists predicted that grassroots conservative activists — drawn to Huckabee’s seat-of-his-pants, outsider campaign — would take a good look at Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
But the biggest impact of Huckabee’s opting out of a second race may be felt by his arch-nemesis.
Without the former preacher in the race, why couldn’t Romney make a strong showing in Iowa? The 34 percent of caucus-goers who supported Huckabee in the race could splinter, leaving a path for Romney to capture a plurality victory in the Hawkeye State.