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SALT LAKE CITY -- Does Mike Huckabee really hate Mitt Romney so much he'd run for president just for the chance to throw haymakers at his old rival?
As a new poll shows the two Republicans running neck and neck against President Obama in the 2012 presidential race, the rivalry between Romney and Huckabee that began during the 2008 campaign resurfaced Monday when Politico published a story titled "Huckabee throws a Mitt fit."
Huckabee didn't actually do anything new. In fact, the feud between the two men has been dormant for some time. But a Politico story says Republican insiders who know both men suggest that Huckabee's dislike of Romney could motivate Huckabee to finally make the decision to run in 2012. The piece points out that the candidates weren't pals before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, where things got really bad as Huckabee emerged as the surprise candidate.
"[Huckabee] hates Mitt, and his goal in Iowa last time was to stop him," said one prominent Republican who's known both men for years. "If he sees an opportunity to cut Mitt off [during the nominating process], he will take it."
Huckabee dismissed the idea out of hand during a conference call with journalists.
"I found that laughable," RealClearPolitics reported Huckabee saying. "My gosh, if a person's ever been even near a presidential campaign, you don't make decisions that pull you, your family, your friends, all of the supporters you've ever had and ever hope to have into the vortex of something like this over some personal issue. That's absurd. It's beyond absurd."
But the questions dogging a potential Huckabee run are of his own making. Busy now with an eponymous Fox TV show and his long-running radio show, the former Arkansas governor is launching a nationwide publicity tour for his new book, "A Simple Government." While that might sound like the beginnings of a campaign, the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman reported in a piece called "The Hesitations of Huckabee" that Huckabee acknowledged he hasn't matched the ground game of other candidates in Iowa.
Fineman declared that Huckabee sounded like a man who wasn't excited to start another brutal run, an observation that gained some traction after Huckabee appeared Monday night on ABC News' Nightline and characterized the 2008 GOP primary as a demolition derby. His own supporters in Iowa are urging him to get in the game.
The Politico piece said Huckabee couldn't stand Romney after Iowa '08, when Romney attacked him in what Fineman characterized as normal negative jabs at a competitor who was gaining ground.
Romney and his supporters don't care much for Huckabee, either, still smarting over his shots at their favorite and at Mormonism.
The Newsweek/Daily Beast poll showed President Obama leading Romney 49-47 and tied with Huckabee at 46. A look at the poll by The Hill showed Romney and Huckabee neck-and-neck, as well. Romney was favored by 19 percent, Huckabee 18 percent, Sarah Palin 10, Donald Trump 8, Newt Gingrich 7 and Tim Pawlenty 5. Thirty-one percent were undecided.