According to a new Rasmussen poll of likely GOP Caucus Goers, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has taken the lead in Iowa, with 28% of the vote, just ahead of Mitt Romney, who has 25%. (Rudy 12%, Thompson 11%, Ron Paul 5%, everyone else <5%.)
Hendrik Hertzberg's article on Huckabee in this week's issue of The New Yorker is one of the Most Read on the magazine's web site.
The New York Times featured three articles on Huckabee over the last few days, including yesterday's "Success Is Testing the Huckabee Campaign" and Michael Luo's article on Wednesday: "In Iowa, Mormon Issue Is Benefiting Huckabee.
"Mr. Huckabee’s rise in Iowa — some recent polls now put him in a dead heat with Mr. Romney, who had led surveys for months — has been fueled by evangelical Christians, who believe Mormonism runs counter to Christian orthodoxy."This morning's Associated Press's article "Huckabee Hopes for New Hampshire Boost," starts off thus:
"Barely a blip on New Hampshire's political radar screen a month ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is generating buzz, curiosity and speculation that a decent showing here could secure his spot in the top tier of GOP presidential contenders."In fact, Huckabee is suddenly all over the media, with everyone talking about his sudden rise in Iowa - he was polling around 2% in Iowa back in May. Longtime political analyst Mark Halperin, now at Time, said Huckabee did the best at this week's Republican debate, and other conservatives agreed. National Journal has even come up with the term "Huck-a-mania" to describe what's happening. Everybody, it seems, now hearts Huckabee.
Oh yeah, he's also got Chuck Norris campaigning for him. Chuck's in Huckabee's new ad, and he showed up at the debate the other night as well, drawing more attention to Huckabee. The Norris angle is interesting enough that the Los Angeles Times wrote about it yesterday: "Is Chuck Norris Huckabee's secret weapon?" [First line: "Chuck Norris doesn't endorse candidates, he kicks them into the stratosphere."] Author Tina Daunt says that after Chuck announced his endorsement,
"Huckabee became the presidential example of tough-guy cool. You thought Fred Thompson was going to be the law-and-order candidate? He was looking like a worn-out hound dog Wednesday night as Huckabee strode into the debate with the still buffed-up, 67-year-old Norris by his side."I've been puzzled all along why Huckabee wasn't doing better, especially when you look at the other Republican candidates. For months there were media reports about Evangelical "leaders" like Dobson not knowing which Republican to support. These hypocrites wouldn't even consider Huckabee, even though he's a Baptist minister and solid evangelical, because he didn't have enough money. Look for stories in the next week or so about God suddenly telling them to endorse Huckabee.
What's interesting is to see how many Liberals actually respect Huckabee, even though they disagree with him on various issues. He's been called likable, thoughtful and well-spoken (though not "articulate"). This has been going on for months in the Liberal blogworld, and the trend has carried over into the mainstream media pieces on Huckabee. I recommend reading Hertzberg's article for what he has to say bout Huckabee - it's a good introduction to the man - and how he says it. His conclusion, for example:
To all appearances, Huckabee’s gentle rhetoric is a reflection of temperament, not a stylistic tactic. Arkansans caution that he is capable of churlishness. But his history suggests that he prefers consensus to confrontation, that he regards government as a tool for social betterment, and that he has little taste for war, cultural or otherwise. He seems to regard liberalism not as a moral evil, a mental disease, or a character flaw—merely as a political point of view he mostly disagrees with. That may not seem like much, but it makes a nice change.The money issue is real - Huckabee hasn't been able to raise much at all. Despite going up against Romney's millions, however, he's now in the lead in Iowa or close enough in other polls to call it an even race. More importantly, he's getting serious media buzz at just the right time. What might he accomplish if he does start to raise real money?
A likable and conservative white male versus Hillary Clinton. Evangelicals energized by a Baptist minister running for President and Hillary being the opponent. A large group of Democrats and Independents discouraged by Hillary getting the nomination. (And I'm sorry - it's not just me. I talked to about a dozen people over Thanksgiving - New York area liberals from various backgrounds, many of whom didn't know each other. Not a single one liked Hillary. Her high "unfavorable" numbers don't come from the vast right-wing conspiracy alone - they often come from within her own party.) Could Huckabee actually be competitive against Hillary in the general election? In a Zogby Poll released this week, Huckabee defeats Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, 44% to 39%. Hillary actually loses to all five major Republican candidates, but she loses to Huckabee by the widest margin. [Obama beats all five Republicans, including Huckabee 46%-40%. Edwards beats four of the five, tying with McCain.]
I'm not sure Huckabee can win the Republican nomination. His lack of money will hurt him in the long run. He's going to need a win in Iowa, a good showing in New Hampshire, the fists of Chuck Norris, and the continued love of the media. But the Republican rank and file are still looking for someone they can get behind. That much is clear. Would it really be that surprising to see them turn to Huckabee?