Amidst all the hand-wringing about the state of the Republican presidential field, one potential candidate seems to be sailing blithely along–undeclared, familiar, discounted, and atop the polls. It’s Mike Huckabee, of course.

Here’s how January looks for him. He’s well ahead in Iowa, where he won the caucuses in 2008. He’s comfortably in the group behind Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, where he finished a poor third in 2008. He’s tied for the lead in Florida, where he also got walloped in 2008. And while no one has polled South Carolina Republicans lately, he finished a close second to John McCain last time they voted in a presidential primary.

Nationally, Huck is maintaining his slight lead over all other candidates–and is the only one of the top candidates to improve his standing since the emergence of Donald the Reformed Gambling Impresario. Among Republicans, he’s got by far the highest favorable rating.  As noted in this space earlier, he appears to have calmed the nerves of Catholic voters, who stayed away from him in droves in 2008. And in the electorate at large, he matches up well against Obama.

At the moment, the onetime Southern Baptist pastor is letting the loonies make the big noise, while doing his own nice guy act on Fox and the Daily Show. He’s a clever politician who knows that the Republican establishment doesn’t much care for him. I’d say he’s laying back in the weeds, waiting to be anointed as the GOP’s last best hope.

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