LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Among possible vice presidential picks, we don't want to overlook dark horses with veep potential. In that spirit, NPR's Don Gonyea has this look at former Governor, former presidential candidate and current TV and radio host Mike Huckabee.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Putting Mike Huckabee on the ticket could certainly liven up the race. In addition to being a respected former governor, he's well-known for his good-natured public persona. At a Huckabee campaign event you might find him with playing an electric bass with an old time rock and roll band. Like this:

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROUD MARY")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) ...down in New Orleans...

GONYEA: Playfulness aside, one big plus is that Huckabee has been tested, having run a surprisingly strong race for the GOP nomination four years ago, including winning the Iowa caucuses.

MIKE HUCKABEE: You know, I wasn't sure that I would ever be able to love a state as much as I love my home state of Arkansas. But tonight, I love Iowa a whole lot.

(LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Huckabee won Iowa, thanks to a big turnout among evangelical voters. But his underfunded campaign faded in later contests. Many think he'd have been a front-runner this year given his strong showing in '08, his vastly improved name recognition and better fundraising. But last spring, he disappointed potential followers with this statement on his weekend TV show on Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HUCKABEE")

HUCKABEE: I can't know or predict the future. But I know for now my answer is clear and firm: I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year.

GONYEA: But a vice presidential race is hardly the two-year grind of a presidential run. And Janine Parry, a political scientist and pollster at the University of Arkansas, says Huckabee would provide some real positives for Romney.

JANINE PARRY: The most obvious way in which it would be a good decision is that it shores up his support with Christian evangelicals.

GONYEA: Over the course of the year, evangelicals have been lukewarm toward Mitt Romney. But if Romney needs independent voters, then Huckabee - a former Baptist minister - likely wouldn't help there much. Huckabee's likability is a plus. It's a driving force behind his daily talk radio show, where his promos say it's about conversation, not confrontation.

HUCKABEE: I have people on my show that are as polar opposite of me philosophically as someone can be. But I'm always going to treat them with respect.

GONYEA: Such talk doesn't necessarily make Huckabee a good pick to play the traditional role often assigned to the vice presidential nominee, that of attack dog. Still, he demonstrated on his show this week that he is comfortable going negative.

HUCKABEE: It's all about this crazy stuff that Obama has been going off on this week about business. And how that if you're successful in business you didn't do it. Wasn't you're doing, the government did it for you

GONYEA: Like Romney, Huckabee is happy to skip the full context of the president's statement.

Other likely disqualifiers for Huckabee are the controversial commutations and pardons he handed out as governor, including some where people committed violent crimes after their release. Then there's his record of tax hikes as governor. That was an issue in '08. On top of that, there's no indication Huckabee would say yes if asked.

But, says Professor Janine Parry, if he were...

PARRY: It would not be dull. I think that it could really sizzle.

GONYEA: With the possible danger that Huckabee might outshine the ticket's lead singer.

Don Gonyea NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOHNNY B. GOODE")

CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Many people coming from miles around to hear you play your music when the sun go down. Maybe someday your name will be in lights, saying Johnny B. Goode tonight. So, go. Go, Johnny. Go. Go. Go. Go, Johnny. Go. Go. Go. Go, Johnny. Go. Go. Go. Go, Johnny. Go. Go, Johnny B. Goode.

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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