Wednesday, December 05, 2007

They Heart Huckabee

With a month to go before the choosing starts in Iowa, there's a surprise new leader in the battle to be the Republican nominee for next year's presidential election. It's Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher. Mitt Romney has been ahead in Iowa so far - he's spent $7m campaigning there - while Rudy Giuliani has topped most of the national polls all year. This is a national poll too, which makes it all the more surprising that Governor Huckabee has come from apparently nowhere to first place.

In a close race with no clear frontrunner, he's got a chance of winning too. As a clergyman, he appeals to the country's Christian supporters - and there are plenty of those. Governors almost always do well in presidential elections, because their experience of running even smallish states can make them attractive and credible candidates, from outside the Washington bubble. Nobody from the Senate has won the presidency since John F Kennedy, while one of the recent Governors to get the top job was Bill Clinton, who also ran Arkansas.

Mike Huckabee is now the coming-man of this campaign - the man with the momentum. At this stage, that's the most important thing. If he can turn his strong poll showing into a top three finish in Iowa, he'll find cash rolling into his campaign coffers and his face appearing more and more on TV. But with that sort of exposure comes greater scrutiny - and rivals are starting to pick over his record as governor. He's now the man to watch, in every sense.

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