“You have to have that kind of money to be in the game a year from now,” he told TIME in a phone interview this week. “I am having people come up to me, bundlers and financiers who say, ‘You know I didn’t know you before but we think you have a real pathway to the nomination.’ “

That wasn’t always the case. In total, Huckabee raised and spent only $16 million in the 2008 contest, a rather minor amount compared to more than $100 million spent by Mitt Romney. The money was painful to raise, and small when it came. “I spent many an hour cooling my heels in the outer offices of potential donors in ’08, and in many cases never even got my calls retuned,” he says. For a time, his campaign manager Chip Saltsman had his BlackBerry set to vibrate every time someone gave an online donation of $100 or more.

This time he says the encouragement has been broad, though he and his advisors are not yet releasing names of bundlers. “If that were not happening,” the almost-candidate says. “I would not be seriously considering anything else.”