Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mike Huckabee Surges Nationally

When I wrote the title to my recent post, "Mike Huckabee: The Republican Frontrunner?, I was joking a bit (hence the question mark).

But as today's Los Angeles Times poll shows, Huckbee really is pulling to the front of the pack in the race for the GOP presidential nomination:

Mike Huckabee, the ascendant Republican presidential candidate in Iowa, is enjoying a surge of support across the country -- and Rudolph W. Giuliani seems to be paying the biggest price, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

Huckabee has pulled into second place, close behind Giuliani, in the national survey of Republican-leaning voters. The results signal that Huckabee's candidacy is catching fire beyond Iowa -- where several recent polls have shown him with a slight lead or in a virtual dead heat with Mitt Romney, who long had led in the state where the nomination process officially starts.

In the Times/Bloomberg poll, Huckabee was preferred by 17% of likely GOP voters -- up from 7% in a similar October survey.

Support for Giuliani, the former New York mayor who once enjoyed a commanding lead in national polls, slid 9 percentage points over the last two months -- to 23%.

Support for other GOP candidates remained largely unchanged.

Analysis of the results and interviews with poll respondents show that Huckabee is drawing on conservatives and churchgoers who like his open embrace of religious values -- a powerful faction of the party that is skeptical about Giuliani because of his more liberal views on social issues.

Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, "is charismatic and very outspoken about his faith," said Julie Bricker, a student in College Station, Texas. "I agree with a lot of the points he makes [opposing] abortion and gay rights."

And as Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, prepares for a Thursday speech on religious values, an overwhelming majority of the GOP-leaning voters surveyed said their view of him was not influenced by his being Mormon. Thirteen percent said his religious affiliation would make them less likely to vote for him.

Read the whole thing.

The poll also finds Hillary Clinton maintaining her strong lead nationally on the Democratic side (so the recent tightening in Iowa's Democratic polling hasn't filtered across the country).

It's the Republican race that's most fascinating, though. My previous Huckabee post generated an interesting comment thread, which included some aggressive Fred Thompson supporters who came off more like Ron Paul's "Paulbots" that supporters of a mainstream GOP candidate.

As readers know, I'm all for John McCain. The Times poll has the Arizona Senator trailing Fred Thomspon by three percentage points (at 11 percent). As I've suggested, a New Hampshire win or strong second-place showing for McCain is essential to his campaign's survival.