What happened
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got a bump in the polls this week after a second-place finish at the Values Voters Summitt over the weekend, behind Mitt Romney. Huckabee, a Baptist minister, also received an unqualified endorsement from columnist and martial arts expert Chuck Norris further cemented Huckabee’s support from social conservatives.

What the commentators said
Huckabee is “outrunning” his second-tier rivals, said Scot Lehigh in The Boston Globe (free registration), and, suddenly, the first-tier is in sight. Jim Gilmore, Tommy Thompson, and now Sam Brownback are gone, and a new Rassmussen poll shows Huckabee tied with Fred Thompson in second place in Iowa, close behind front-runner Mitt Romney. Huckabee is “winning notice” because he’s “down to earth and likable,” an “engaging speaker,” and “seems more aware than his Republican rivals that the economy isn't working for everyone.”

Brownback’s departure is giving Huckabee a nudge, said Jonathan V. Last in the Sacramento Bee, but he “isn’t going to win the nomination.” Still, “Huckabee has done a good job establishing himself as a likable, serious conservative.”

“Huckabee is still a dark horse,” said James Pinkerton in Newsday. “But he is a buzzing dark horse.” Judging by “standing ovations,” he was definitely the “hot” candidate among values voters, and that makes him the candidate with the greatest connection to the party’s grassroots.