If the weather is nice on Jan. 3 in Iowa, expect Mitt Romney to be the victor in the Republican presidential caucuses, but if the weather's lousy, Ron Paul's the man.
That's the prediction from 2008 Iowa GOP presidential caucuses victor Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Fox News host who also predicted that Rick Santorum is the sleeper candidate in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest.
"I would probably say that Mitt Romney will end up winning it today," Huckabee said in an interview that aired on "Fox News Sunday." "If the weather is good, Mitt Romney is in better shape. If the weather is bad and it's real tough to get out, Ron Paul would win."
But Huck -- who said a Romney win in Iowa would be a "shocker" -- conceded there's a potential hiccup in his predictions.
With the economy in such tentative shape, social issues aren't playing as strong a role as they previously have in the Iowa caucuses. But where the strongest candidate on economic issues may be soft on the "sanctity of life," truly pro-life voters could tip the balance in the socially conservative state.
So while Iowa voters "are going to vote maybe their pocketbooks, they are not going to step over their pocket and vote against their core principles when it comes to the issue of life and marriage and others. And that's why some of these endorsements that Santorum has are pretty significant," Huckabee said.
Risking the wrath of Paul voters who are very motivated to call and write letters to media personalities, Huckabee said the Texas congressman "is not going to be elected president."
Though Paul's organization in Iowa is first-rate and his support base is extremely dedicated, Hucakbee said Paul's foreign policy views are "anathema to the Republicans, much less to Democrats and what I call middle-of-the-road people."
"He has a core of fanatical believers, but they do not represent the mainstream of America," Huckabee said, contending that Paul's remarks that he would not try to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon go "beyond off the edge."
Huckabee said Paul makes the argument that Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon is no different from one obtained by Israel or Russia or Pakistan. But there is a difference -- intent.
"The difference is they have them so they won't use them. Iran wants to get one because they want to use it. There is a big difference. And it's just like -- he doesn't get it," he said. "And so, there's no way that that's going to do anything other than kind of confuse the race. But he's not going to get the nomination. That is for sure."
Also facing an uphill climb is Newt Gingrich, said Huckabee, describing a barrage of negative ads in Iowa in recent weeks against the former House speaker. Despite the conventional wisdom that negative ads backfire against the messenger, Huckabee said that's "nonsense." As a result, Gingrich has watched his poll numbers climb and then nosedive.
"Newt's been hit in Iowa by "pretty much anybody who has 15 cents to buy part of an ad," he said, explaining that effect of negative ads is only realized over time.
"If you are soft on a candidate, and every day, you get pounded with about 20 messages telling you that the guy you think you might want to vote for has a lot of problems, it's easier to switch horses at that point. That's what's happening in Newt."
While Romney is in the mix in Iowa, he is well ahead in New Hampshire. A Boston Globe poll out Sunday gives Romney 39 percent of the state's likely Republican voters while Gingrich and Paul are tied with 17 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman gains 11 percent.
Huckabee said that a surprisingly strong showing for Romney in Iowa puts the former Massachusetts governor "in the position where he could run the table." Romney has also won the support of Gov. Nikki Haley in South Carolina, the next nominating contest on Jan. 21. Romney is not expected to win that state either, but could end up doing better than previously estimated.
If Romney came in in the top three in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then goes on to win Florida, which holds its contest on Jan. 31, "I think it upon would be hard to play catch up with him at that point," Huckabee said.
Of course, success may not be predicated on the number of GOP delegates, half of whom won't be assigned until mid-April. Success may come from having the money to stay in and win it.
"A lot of candidates after Iowa, if they don't do very well there, their money dries up," he said. "So, they're going to limp in New Hampshire and they'll have to crawl to South Carolina. And if they try to stay beyond that, in unless they have a bunch of millions banked away, they're not going to raise anymore."
Huckabee said the media also plays a role in the endgame.
"I'll tell you, don't underestimate the power that the press has to create the image of a winner and the momentum. And, you know, I remember four years ago, I was winning primaries all over the place in the South and Midwest, but by that time, the press had pretty well decided that (John) McCain was going to be the nominee," he said.
Huckabee, who decided in the spring not to make another bid for the White House, warned that Republicans ought to be careful how they mount the primary race.
"Republicans can't decide what they want to be when they grow up. I know they want to beat Obama but in the process of doing it, they want to tear each (other) up so much and savage each other that it's going to be much more difficult to beat Obama," he said..