Posted: November 26, 2007 5:46 PM
Huckabee Enjoys Strong Polls as Iowans Lean His Way
Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, qualified this week for front-runner status — at least in Iowa. The Washington Post—ABC News poll released last Wednesday ranked him a close second behind the current leader in the state, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Twenty-four percent of voters likely to participate in the January Iowa caucus said they would vote for Huckabee, putting him four points behind Romney’s 28 percent. That is a 16-point jump since July for the former dark horse candidate. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson was third, with 15 percent of the vote. New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who leads the Republican field in national polls, had 13 percent. And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took 6 percent.
Washington Post reporter Dan Balz called the Huckabee gain “a remarkable development.” In an interview with Judy Woodruff on the NewsHour, Balz said, “What Mike Huckabee has been able to do in the past couple of months is basically go from the near back of pack to near the front of the pack. He has tripled his support in Iowa in the three months or four months since we last polled. I think that tells you that Iowa is very competitive, that Mitt Romney, who has been the front-runner there, now has serious competition to be the winner out there — which he is counting on in order to give him momentum into New Hampshire. So what Huckabee is doing now is throwing yet one more twist into a very interesting Republican race.”
Balz said Huckabee’s surge might potentially have significant consequences for Romney’s overall campaign, even though the Iowa caucuses are just the first in a busy season of primary contests.
“It will be an important test for Romney because his whole strategy is predicated on winning Iowa and then winning New Hampshire — and, he hopes, wins in Michigan, which comes a week after New Hampshire. Any bump in the road for him will cause a serious problem for his strategy,” Balz said.
Huckabee’s challenge will be to broaden his appeal beyond conservative Christians and outside Iowa. The candidate is a Baptist minister, and nearly seven out of ten of his backers are evangelical Protestants. Because he has devoted the vast majority of his time and limited resources to Iowa, he does not have the same familiarity and popularity in other states.