Byron York

"When I ran four years ago, the first several months of my campaign, I was out there talking to six or seven people in New Hampshire, South Carolina," Huckabee said. "There was no press corps following me, there were no bright lights. So mistakes that I made, I was able to correct long before I hit the big show. Rick had no minor league experience. He went straight to the hottest spotlight in America, and I think he had just not prepared himself for what it is to be a candidate on the national stage."

Asked why Santorum has failed to catch fire, Huckabee was out of theories. "I honestly don't know," he said, looking perplexed. "He's done everything that I think a person should do to win Iowa."

With so many ups and downs in the race, Huckabee suggested that Mitt Romney might benefit from a splintering on the conservative side of the party. But he still believes that, even with less than three weeks before the caucuses, another surprise or two might be in store.

After all, even when Huckabee took the lead in Iowa polls in late 2007, a lot of observers didn't believe he could actually win. "And no one predicted that I would win by almost 10 points," Huckabee said with a laugh. "Frankly, that shocked me."

(Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.)

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner