04 January 2008

Iowa Win May Be Start of Good Month for Huckabee

A month or so ago a Mike Huckabee win in Iowa would have been a shocker. But if you've been paying attention lately Huckabee's victory was hardly a surprise, except maybe to the TV pundits who either believe what comes out of their mouths or are just trying to hype the storyline.

They argue that no one who is outspent 15-1 should win any political contest, except maybe for dog catcher.

But recent poll numbers, and the gut feeling you got when you saw both Huckabee and Mitt Romney in clips from the stump, pointed to a Huckabee win.

It was also pretty clear that the religious right would have much to say in this race, but it was a bit surprising to find that 60% of GOP caucus-goers considered themselves Evangelical Christians.

Huckabee should be so lucky in New Hampshire, the next main contest on the GOP calendar. (Wyoming is Saturday, but no one's likely to pay that race much heed.

New Hampshire conservatives are more of the libertarian variety and don't look kindly on those who want to tell others how to live their lives - especially politicians who would do so. So Huckabee's "Christian values" agenda is not likely to play well in the state. The polls bear that out.

But that is not news to anyone, least of all Huckabee.

If you look beyond next Tuesday's vote in New Hampshire, Huckabee appears to have a good shot of winning three of the other four major pre-Feb. 5 primaries.

He's even with Romney in Romney's boyhood home of Michigan (Jan. 15), has a decent lead in South Carolina (Jan. 19), and is in the thick of a three-way race with Romney and Rudy Giuliani in Florida (Jan 29).

Nevada (Jan. 19) is a two-man race right now between Giuliani and Romney, but it's on the same night as South Carolina and even though it offers nearly as many delegates as South Carolina, the media will pooh-pooh its results as inconsequential. So, the media spotlight would stay on Huckabee if he were to win down south.

Maine (Feb. 1) is on the pre-Feb.5 schedule as well, but so little attention will be paid to that race that I can't even find a Maine poll to post here.

Huckabee's Iowa victory could have one side effect that has the potential to hurt him in a big way down the road.

In beating Romney soundly, Huckabee may have damaged the former Massachusetts governor heading into New Hampshire, where Romney is already a point or two behind John McCain.

Should Romney come up short again in New Hampshire, the economic conservatives in the GOP will likely start looking around for another candidate to knock off Huckabee.

That candidate is likely to be McCain, who could be tough for Huckabee to beat if and when the race shakes down to two or three candidates.

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