In a way, Mike Huckabee's first run for president has already ended.
With his second-tier status now history, comes an entire new campaign -- with full scrutiny, tougher attacks, more thorough questions and (naturally) more mistakes.
Huckabee's most glaring misstep in the last 24 hours was his inability to answer a question about the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. He didn't know about it, he said. And not knowing something on the campaign trail is probably going to happen again, he added.
The parole of a convicted rapist turned murderer during Huckabee's watch is also getting added scrutiny. The media is digging up old quotes from the Arkansas parole board. They charge Huckabee leaned on the board to parole Wayne Dumond, who later murdered a person in Missouri. Huckabee says they aren't telling the truth.
Huckabee is also taking some heat for his ambiguous answers about the Mormon faith. Is Mitt Romney a Christian? He won't judge. Is the Mormon faith a cult? Again, that's for you to decide. Some are hinting that Huckabee is hoping to ride subtle religious bigotry to a caucus win in Iowa.
There is some good news for Huck. The New Hampshire National Education Association is slated to endorse Huckabee Thursday. If it pans out, it will be the first time the state affiliate chooses a candidate in the G.O.P. primary.
Then, there are the polls, which have been Huckabee's best friend. Just pick a poll, and you'll find some good news for the former Arkansas Governor. For the first time, a New Hampshire poll shows him in double-digits (11%). In Iowa, Strategic Vision has him up 3 over Mitt Romney. (Zogby puts him down 1.)
The most wild news of all might be a Rasumussen poll, which now shows him the national Republican leader. That's right, nationwide. Huckabee 20%, Giuliani 17%.
This is not a dream. But it is far from over. The next days and weeks will only get tougher for Huck. It will be the test of his political life, at a time when it has all turned upside down, so fast.