Huck­abee hopes rise in Iowa

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ralph Z. Hallow

Top Iowa Repub­li­cans say Mike Huck­abee has en­tered the “can-win” class of pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion hope­fuls — at least for the mo­ment.

The for­mer Arkansas gov­er­nor is within six points of Mitt Rom­ney in a new poll of likely Iowa Repub­li­can cau­cus­go­ers and has the po­ten­tial to in­spire many of Iowa’s church­go­ers to leave the pews to pound the neigh­bor­hood block on his be­half, they say.

“I would not be sur­prised if he comes in sec­ond or pos­si­bly wins the cau­cuses here, es­pe­cially since Sam Brown­back has dropped out,” said for­mer Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

Iowa Repub­li­can Party Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Chuck Laud­ner agreed but said the “mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion” will be­come how to con­vert suc­cess in the Jan. 3 cau­cus to a sus­tained run for the nom­i­na­tion.

De­spite his sec­ond-place show­ing in the latest CBS/New York Times poll, Mr. Huck­abee con­tin­ues to lag other top-tier hope­fuls in the cru­cial cat­e­gories of or­ga­ni­za­tion and fundrais­ing.

The Nov. 2-12 poll’s leader, Mr. Rom­ney, the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor, landed 27 per­cent, fol­lowed by Mr. Huck­abee at 21 per­cent, within the poll’s five-per­cent­age-point mar­gin of er­ror. For­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani was at 15 per­cent, and for­mer Ten­nessee Gov. Fred Thompson was at 9 per­cent. Both Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas were at 4 per­cent.

Mr. Laud­ner said that Iowans are look­ing to rally around a can­di­date and that Mr. Rom­ney ap­pears to have peaked.

He said Mr. Rom­ney’s “full­court press” in the state has pro­duced sup­port “in the 30 per­cent range, and if he hasn’t cor­ralled cau­cus­go­ers af­ter sev­eral months on the ground, they aren’t likely to move there now.”

Mr. Rom­ney’s cam­paign says in ef­fect that the Huck­abee train will stay in Iowa, re­gard­less of who places first in Jan­uary.

“Mike Huck­abee has a long record of wrong ideas and ac­tions on ev­ery­thing from higher taxes to lax en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws,” said Rom­ney spokesman Kevin Mad­den.

“Once Repub­li­cans get past the one-lin­ers, they won’t be laugh­ing any­more. There is noth­ing funny about the mas­sive tax hikes he has shown a fond­ness for in Arkansas.”

Mr. Huck­abee, an or­dained South­ern Bap­tist min­is­ter who has been pop­u­lar with other evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers and ac­tivists, is now see­ing en­dorse­ments come his way from fel­low South­ern Bap­tist lead­ers. Some sup­port­ers com­plain that the press has ig­nored the trend.

Kelly Shack­elford, pres­i­dent of the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion in Texas, said: “The truth is, un­known to many in the me­dia, that the South­ern Bap­tist lead­ers just came out firmly for Mike.”

They in­clude, he said, for­mer pres­i­dents of the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion Jack Gra­ham, Jerry Vines and James Draper.

“Ev­ery­one knows which of the top can­di­dates is un­ques­tion­ably strong­est on the pro-life, pro-fam­ily is­sues,” said Mr. Shack­elford, whose group is the a Texas af­fil­i­ate of Fo­cus on the Fam­ily. “It’s Huck­abee, and it’s not even close. The only ex­cuse had been electabil­ity. With Mike’s cur­rent num­bers in the polls, that ex­cuse is gone.”

New Hamp­shire, his­tor­i­cally the first pres­i­den­tial pri­mary in an elec­tion cy­cle, is still a prob­lem for Mr. Huck­abee. A sep­a­rate CBSNew York Times Nov. 9-12 poll found him fifth, with 6 per­cent, be­hind Mr. Rom­ney at 34 per­cent, Mr. McCain and Mr. Gi­u­liani with 16 per­cent each, and Mr. Paul at 8 per­cent.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Kevin Har­berts, left, pres­i­dent of Iowa Metal Spin­ners, gave a tour of his fac­tory to Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee ear­lier this month in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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