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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/23/2010

Sarah Palin's Mike Huckabee problem

By Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

1. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Monday that Sarah Palin might well "run away" with the Republican nomination for president.

It's funny Huckabee should say such a thing, because he's got a lot of say over whether she does just that. And it has to do with whether he even runs in the first place.

As potential 2012 candidates weigh their prospects and determine their plans for the next presidential race, one thing is clear: that Huckabee and Palin inhabit largely the same space -- i.e. they each would perform well without the other, but they might undercut each other if they are in the same race.

There is currently a four-candidate top-tier consisting of Palin, Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. And indeed, a new Quinnipiac University poll on Monday showed the four of them all huddled between 15 and 19 percent of the vote.

But while Romney and Gingrich have pretty broad support, the base of support for Huckabee and Palin is readily apparent, and for both of them, it starts with born-again evangelicals. The two of them combine for 46 percent of that vote, compared to just 26 percent for Gingrich and Romney. Palin and Huckabee are also the top two vote-getters among women and people without college degrees.

So why is that important? Because if any of the four frontrunners seems least likely to run for president, it would be Huckabee. And, if he doesn't take the plunge, where is his 26 percent share of evangelicals going to go? Where is his 18 percent share of women going? Who gets his 17 percent share of those without college degrees?

The obvious answer to all three of those questions is Palin. Gingrich has been married three times and has some baggage to show for it. Romney's ability to connect with rural, Christian voters, meanwhile, remains suspect because of his Mormonism.

It's hard to see Palin having a path to victory that doesn't include Iowa or South Carolina, and both of those early states happened to be Huckabee's strongest in 2008 (he won Iowa and came in second in the Palmetto State).

At a speech Monday in the Hawkeye State, Huckabee went on to joke that, if he does run, "I prefer she not and that she endorse me."

He's only half kidding. They each stand to lose plenty by seeing the other one in the race.

2. Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) has conceded his reelection race to Republican Rep.-elect Blake Farenthold, handing Republicans a net gain of 62 seats this cycle.

The results of a recount were expected to be completed Monday night, and Ortiz doesn't appear to have made up enough ground to overcome his 799-vote deficit.

Farenthold's win goes down as one of the most surprising of the cycle. Ortiz was not considered a top target until the closing days of the campaign, and his district is heavily Hispanic. Farenthold is a former talk radio host.

With that race drawing to a close, four unresolved races remain, with the GOP still hoping for victory in two key New York races.

New York Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop has taken a slim lead in the Empire State's 1st district race, with an edge over Republican Randy Altschuler of 16 votes out of more than 190,000 cast.

The vote tally shifted in Bishop's favor as the absentee ballot count continued Monday. Both camps are also sparring over contested ballots; the count is expected to continue this week, although the status of the challenged ballots may not be known until next week.

Meanwhile, in the state's 25th District, Rep. Dan Maffei (D) trails Republican Ann Marie Buerkle by more than 550 votes. Attorneys for both camps agreed on Monday to postpone their planned court date until Wednesday; the meeting was originally slated to take place this morning.

Pressure appears likely to mount on Maffei to concede given that Buerkle's lead now looks insurmountable. In a statement, Maffei's camp said that it is "reviewing the re-canvass and audit documentation that the counties are providing."

3. Minnesota's Supreme Court justices on Monday denied a petition by state Rep. Tom Emmer (R) that would require election officials to match up ballots with voter rolls in the state's gubernatorial contest.

The announcement came shortly after justices heard oral arguments in the case Monday afternoon. Former Sen. Mark Dayton (D) currently leads Emmer by 8,770 votes.

At issue was the state's process for reconciling the number of ballots cast with the signatures on local voter registration rolls. Emmer's team wanted the state to require that local officials ensure no more ballots were cast on Election Day than there are signatures on the rolls; Dayton's team charged that Emmer's camp was trying to delay the outcome of the race.

The court's justices released their order on Monday afternoon, with the actual opinion to follow.

The State Canvassing Board, which meets today, is expected to call for a statewide hand recount of the more than two million ballots that were cast on Election Day. The recount is set to conclude by Dec. 14.

4. Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller has filed a lawsuit in state court in an attempt to keep his campaign alive.

Miller is seeking a ruling that would force elections officials to only count write-in votes for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) if her name is spelled correctly. Currently, election officials are working under a voter-intent standard, which means slight misspellings could still be counted for Murkowski if the intent of the voter is clear.

The suit comes after a federal judge on Friday ruled that the issue was one for state courts and issued an injunction temporarily delaying certification of Murkowski's victory, provided Miller followed suit in state court on Monday.

Miller did so, meaning the race continues. The Associated Press has already called the race for Murkowski, who leads by more than 10,000 votes. Even if all ballots being challenged by Miller are thrown out by the court, Murkowski would still lead by more than 2,100 votes.

Miller is also requesting a hand recount.

5. Another Republican challenger has announced a bid to challenge Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who is running for election to a third term in 2012.

Investment adviser Pat Flynn (R), who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP Senate nod in 2008, joins state Attorney General Jon Bruning (R), who announced earlier this month that he is running for the seat.

Flynn took 22 percent in the 2008 Senate primary, with Sen. Mike Johanns (R) winning the GOP nod and, ultimately, the general election.

On his campaign website, Flynn cited "individual freedom and individual responsibility," "economic freedom" and "limited but effective government" as among his principles.

By Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez  | November 23, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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