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Does Mike Huckabee still want to be president?

Now that the 2010 midterm elections are over, tongues have already started wagging over who the potential Republican presidential candidates may be in 2012.

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Even before the advent of the tea party, Huckabee's own record had been problematic in Republican primary politics. He faced no small amount of criticism during his last presidential campaign for the tax and spending increases he oversaw as governor. Since then, another controversy has arisen over his 2000 decision as governor to commute the burglary sentence of a man who nine years later - free on bail from another crime - killed four police officers in Seattle.

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And then there is the question of whether the Republican nomination will really be such a prize in 2012.

President Obama "is going to be much tougher to beat than people in our party think," Huckabee said. "He's going to have a clear ride through to the Democratic nomination, because no one is going to oppose him or challenge him. He's going to start out with a billion dollars, no opponent, so he can save his money to the last four months. He's got a huge social network and he has the power of the incumbency. People underestimate how sweet it is flying on Air Force One with all the trappings of the presidency."

The Republicans, meanwhile, "could in fact end up with a demolition derby," he added. "Whoever emerges will come out bloody, bruised and broke."

Obama could be crippled by such imponderables as high unemployment or a crisis overseas, Huckabee said. "Is he beatable? Yes. Is it as easy as some of the Republicans like to chirp? Absolutely not. And that's something I have to consider."

Meanwhile, Huckabee said he has to consider whether he is in fighting shape - "mentally, emotionally, spiritually and every other way prepared to do this again." Then there's this: The man who turned the other cheek at deep fried Twinkies at the Iowa state fair in 2008 is noticeably heavier than he was a couple of years ago.

"I've really struggled this past year," he said. His eating habits have slipped back into old patterns, a bad knee keeps him from exercising as much as he should, his travel schedule is punishing.

"But that's an excuse," Huckabee said. "I'm not going to make it. We do what we want to do."

Doing just what he wants to do is a luxury that not everyone gets. And no one knows better than Mike Huckabee how hard it would be to give that up.


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