Former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee's announcement that he won't run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination appears to have cleared the way for Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to toss her hat into that ring, according to CBS News political correspondent Jan Crawford.
"The one person I think benefits most (from Huckabee's decision)," Crawford told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill Monday, "and gets the biggest boost from this is ... Bachmann. Her advisers tell me they never thought Huckabee would run. That's why she'd been taking a hard look at getting into this race. But (on Sunday), sources close to Bachmann told me they really see a real opening for her, and they expect her to get into the race as soon as June.
"Bachmann," Crawford continued, "would be extremely competitive in key states like Iowa and South Carolina."
Crawford explained that Huckabee "was really not ever expected to run. But then, when Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour decided last month that he wasn't going to get in the race, Huckabee really started to rethink it. Polls show that he would have been a front-runner right away. And some of that private polling by other possible candidates had him dominant in key states like Iowa.
"But there were some financial considerations. Huckabee's really making some money now on his television show. He's building a new house in Florida. So he said he prayed for clarity, and he got it."
Huckabee was poling strong among social conservatives and many Tea Party members, Hill pointed out.
"You're obviously going to see this real jockeying right now among all these people who are out there vying to get that support," Crawford says. "I think the former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, has got to be breathing a sigh of relief. He's gonna be hoping to get those Huckabee supporters. As he's really fighting to be the alternative candidate to (former Mass. Gov.) Mitt Romney. He needed those social conservatives. He's trying to build a coalition with a whole bunch of conservatives.
"I think the other person (who will benefit) is the former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum. This may allow him to stay in the race a little longer. He's been working really hard in South Carolina, a key primary state, and he's been getting a very good reception with social conservatives."
Crawford noted, "There are still a few others out there who may ... run. But I don't think that they're really as affected by Huckabee's decision. Gov. Mitch Daniels, in Indiana - obviously, we're expecting to hear from him. And the former Utah governor (and U.S. ambassador to China), Jon Huntsman. We'll hear from soon him, too."