I am not surprised in the least that Mike Huckabee is passing on the 2012 primary. He’s got a great lifestyle, wealth beyond his and his wife’s imagination, and no reason to lessen his speaking value by losing a presidential primary.It was cheesy to hype an announcement and then say, “Never mind.” But no one ever accused Huckabee of going light on the show biz presentation. (Former senator Chuck Hagel, who called reporters together to say he had no news about a 2008 presidential run, has now been bypassed in the “You hauled us out here for this?” category.)

As for all those polls I’ve been telling Right Turn readers about, they really were a complete waste of time. Huckabee, Haley Barbour and likely Sarah Palin are out. In the serious-candidate department we are down to Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and maybe Gov. Mitch Daniels. (You-hoo — Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan — this race is yours for the taking.) The pollsters can try new rounds of irrelevant early polling with at least a more accurate set of potential candidates.

The immediate beneficiary of this is former Pawlenty, whose prospects in Iowa just increased ten-fold. There is no other solid social conservative in the race, he’s from a neighboring state and he’s got a ground game up and running. (Expect Romney to now “not try so hard” and prepare to discount a loss there.) Moreover, unless a credible alternative such as Daniels, Christie or Ryan enter the race, Pawlenty is the not-Romney. If you think Romney can’t get past Romneycare, start putting money on Pawlenty.

Conversely, this is dreadful news for Romney. His prospects largely depended on either being the not-Palin or competing against a large field that would divide up the not-Romney votes. Palin doesn’t seem to be running, and the field is shrinking every day.

Lastly, the new dark horse may be Jon Huntsman. He’s thrown cap-and-trade under the bus, he doesn’t have Romneycare around his neck, he is fresh to the field (and hence not yet a bore), and he has some style and verve.

Can he overcome the problem of having served under President Obama? Sure. “I served my country. I was the American ambassador, not the Obama ambassador. I worked for human rights, for protection of American intellectual property and for business opportunities for American firms. And if there is anyone who understands how to beat China in the global competition, it’s me.” Hey, it’s a heck of a lot more credible than that train wreck of a health-care speech Romney delivered.