Way back before the Republican primary campaigns commenced, the leftist Daily Kos site's denizens were contemplating who would be the most dangerous (to them (and President Obama of course). I noted numerous comments along the lines of "Mike Huckabee really scares me".
Of course they would not go so far as to assign any positive attributes (apart form acknowledging the obvious, that he is a very good speaker/communicator) to Huckabee. Rather, damning with faint praise along the lines of "he comes across as less bat-shit crazy than all the others" and " although a conman he comes across as plausible" and other comments along those lines.
In reality, the "Kossites" had every reason to be concerned for their beloved Obama and the real threat that an Huckabee candidacy would have created for the Democratic party at the 2012 election.
With the Republicans having, arguably, the worst candidate in Romney, running the worst campaign in living memory, the GOP came within a few percentage points of winning Florida (lost by less than one percent) Ohio 2.97% and Virginia 3.87%. If those had been won with a better candidate, then one further state would have been needed to have won in the Electoral College.
It is unimaginable that Huckabee would have run a worse campaign than Romney. Would he have railed against the "47%"? Would he have had overseas tax haven problems, and not have divulged his tax returns?
Would he have been depicted as an elitist, business and worker destroyer capitalist of the worst sort?
Heck no, and with that advantage for the Obama team gone, which negatives they hammered at Romney early and hard, the administration would have had to have run on its record. A Huckabee candidacy, free from all these distractions, would have hit, plausibly and continually, at the Obama administrations many failings, and of course most particularly, their poor unemployment record.
Huckabee also had the advantage of being a known (and avuncularly popular) previous candidate, with no major personal failings for the left to rail against. He would have been a very good debater and, as the left feared, would have come across as reasonable and sensible. It would have been a totally different campaign, and would have had a totally different result.
The other, significant advantages ensuing from an Huckabee campaign would have been a much higher turnout from conservatives who didn't trust Romney, because they saw him as an "Etch-a Sketch" flip-flopper on abortion and "Obamacare (Romneycare).
There would have been a higher turnout from Evangelicals who didn't like Romney's Mormonism as well. The increase in turnout from these two groups alone would have made a significant difference in the GOP's vote, and may have, by themselves, been enough to give Huckabee the win.
Being perceived as a genuine conservative, Huckabee would not have had to place a perceived ultra- conservative on the ticket as VP candidate (an Huckabee/Rubio team would have been formidable). The team would not have needed to include the boring and ineffectual campaigner that Paul Ryan was. It is also inconceivable that Huckabee would have excluded Sarah Palin from the convention, and insulted the Paul forces.
If Huckabee had declared early he would have won the Ames poll, and then the Iowa primary comfortably, which would have stopped the Bachmann distraction in its tracks.
He would have won South Carolina by which time Santorum would have be a factor of no importance. It is unlikely that he would have let himself be rail-roaded in Florida like Gingrich was. But, even if he lost that state, his delegate toll would have been increasing, and he would have gone on to win the nomination from a field that was not as splintered on the right as the one Romney faced.
Whilst it would have been unlikely that he would have done significantly better with the Black vote than Romney, he might have been perceived as less of an elitist, and the Black turn-out might have been less. With Hispanics, the same factor may have been in play-certainly he couldn't have done any worse and very well would have done better, especially with an Hispanic running mate.
As far as the extra state that the GOP would have needed to win it is there, in Iowa,won by Obama with just 51.99% of the vote) that Huckabee would have had his biggest advantage. He is very popular in Iowa, which launched him on the national stage. If the Evangelicals which figure so strongly in that swing state had turned out for him en-mass, he could have won it, and won the presidency.
Only Huckabee knows his state of mind as regards these events, and what might have been. For those who would have wished the GOP to have won in 2012 though, it is a matter of great regret, and America's loss, that Huckabee (especially as Palin also declined) declined to run.