The Huckabee Surge Is Real

Mike Huckabee’s second place finish in the August 2007 Republican Iowa Straw Poll was largely dismissed at the time, due to the non-participation in the event by three of the leading GOP candidates—Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson (who hadn’t yet announced his candidacy at that time).

But Huckabee received some good press for a week and the former Arkansas governor noticed a bump in some state polls shortly thereafter; for example, his support in New Hampshire jumped from 1 percent in late July to 9 percent in late August in an American Research Group (ARG) survey. In Iowa, his numbers also increased from the low single digits to 8 percent (Zogby, August 2007; Los Angeles Times, September 2007) and 14 percent (ARG, August 2007).

Huckabee’s support nationally has also been on the rise, according to some pollsters. Rasmussen has measured his support in the double digits throughout the past week in its daily tracking poll, with the former Arkansas Governor currently at 13 percent—just 4 points behind Thompson and 10 points behind Giuliani.

Huckabee’s excellent performances in televised debates have certainly helped sustain these numbers—the Baptist minister’s tone is well mannered enough to come off as above politics, yet his choice of words delineates his policy positions with clarity, revealing to his Republican audience that he is a man of conviction (unlike the perception of other leading candidates who have been portrayed as flip-floppers (e.g. Romney, Giuliani)).

Mitt Romney has surprised many pundits by leading in Iowa and New Hampshire polls through the past several months, and now also leads in another important early primary state—South Carolina (29 percent, ARG, October 2007). But Romney’s support, unlike Huckabee, is correlated to multi-million dollar ad campaigns in these early primary states; Huckabee’s campaign isn’t nearly as flush.

But Huckabee’s numbers are still on the rise in the Hawkeye State, as demonstrated in three recent October Iowa polls: 18 percent (3rd place) in a Rasmussen survey, 13 percent (tied for 2nd) in a University of Iowa survey, and now 19 percent (2nd place) in the latest ARG poll, conducted October 26-29 of 600 likely Republican caucus voters.

In the ARG poll, Romney still leads the way at 27 percent, followed by Huckabee at 19 percent, Giuliani at 16 percent, McCain at 14 percent (his highest numbers since July), Fred Thompson at 8 percent, Tom Tancredo at 2 percent, and Ron Paul at 1 percent. Thirteen percent of Republican caucus-goers were undecided.

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