Huckabee praises Barbour at MC

CLINTON, Miss. (AP) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Monday it will be at least this summer before he decides whether to run for president again, and he’ll only enter the 2012 race if he thinks he can win.

At the same time, Huckabee praised two-term Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, another potential Republican candidate for the White House.

“One of his greatest assets is, he is maybe the most brilliant political strategist in America today, bar none. In any state,” Huckabee told reporters before a speech at the Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College in Clinton.

Huckabee said Barbour would be “an amazingly strong” presidential candidate because of his fundraising skills and national contacts. Barbour was Republican National Committee chairman from 1993 to 1997 and chaired the Republican Governors Association from June 2009 through November 2010.

“If he doesn’t run, I would love to have him and his Rolodex be my chairman and develop my strategy should I run. No one I’d rather have on my side,” Huckabee said.

Barbour has been hiring consultants and traveling to early contest states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. He says he could announce a campaign in April.

Huckabee hosts a weekend show on Fox News and would have to leave that job if he becomes a presidential candidate. He said some people run because they want a platform for their ideas.

“I don’t need the presidential race in order to have platform. I’ve got a better one, just in terms of platforms, doing what I do,” Huckabee said. “But if I feel like that I can win and govern and do something really significant for the country that I love and care about deeply, that’s what would push me over the edge.”

Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa caucuses. The primaries and caucuses are more spread out on the 2012 calendar than they were then, and Huckabee said he thinks the Republican nomination might remain undecided until the party’s national convention. He said candidates who enter the primary too early might have trouble sustaining a long-term campaign.

“Some of the operatives may want to line up early because it’s a job. They need work,” Huckabee said. “But the people don’t make their decisions in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina this early.”

Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was at the college to speak at a scholarship banquet and in a business class.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press