Almost nobody is giving Mike Huckabee a chance in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
But the former Arkansas governor, who stepped down from his Fox News hosting gig on Saturday as he weighs another run, still matters. A lot.
That's because, arguably more than any other potential candidate, Huckabee has an extremely niche and devoted base of support: evangelical Christians. The ordained Southern Baptist minister is a natural fit for this group, and it's a major reason he did as well as he did in 2008.
What some people forget about Huckabee's 2008 run was that he didn't just win Iowa; he also won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia. His eight wins, in fact, were not far behind second-place Mitt Romney's 11, and Huckabee won more than 20 percent of all votes cast, despite dropping out with more than a dozen states yet to vote.
And just about every state that Huckabee won was among the most heavily evangelical in the country. Here's a recap of the 31 states that held regular primaries or caucuses by Feb. 9, with Huckabee's showing compared to the evangelical population of the state.
In all but eight of these states, Huckabee's showing was within single digits of the evangelical population -- or better.
Now, does that mean Huckabee has a chance to win or will carry these states in 2016? Not necessarily. His devoted base is both a ticket to the dance and the reason he'll struggle to win the nomination. There quite simply aren't enough evangelicals out there. In fact, there is no state outside the South and the lower Midwest that is more than one-quarter evangelical.
(Huckabee also struggles on the financial side of things, which was a big reason he couldn't sustain his post-Iowa momentum in 2008.)
But while Huckabee monopolized this demographic in 2008, these same evangelical voters are key to plenty of candidates who are considered as formidable in 2016, up to and including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
Huckabee did so well among this group in large part because there wasn't another candidate with the same kind of profile as him -- save perhaps Fred Thompson. But that's no longer the case. The options for evangelicals in 2016 could include Huckabee, Cruz, Paul, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal.
That's a lot of people competing for a key but limited base of supporters. It will make Huckabee hard-pressed to repeat his showing from 2008, but don't be surprised if he continues to poll quite well and takes significant votes.