October 25, 2007

Huckabee On the Rise

He's a true conservative with strengthening chances for '08, says Carl Leubsdorf of The Dallas Morning News:

Quietly, even unexpectedly, the genial former Arkansas governor may be turning the GOP's Big Four into a Big Five. He scored a triumph last weekend at the "Values Voters Summit" and got good marks from Sunday's Fox News Channel debate.

And in the key kickoff state of Iowa, there are signs of a showing that could transform the race.

The reason: In a field in which some of the best-known candidates are turning verbal cartwheels to portray themselves as more conservative than their rivals or their records, Mr. Huckabee is the real article. As he put it on Fox News Sunday, he's a "consistent conservative with some authenticity about those convictions."

Better than half of the more than 950 voters at the Family Research Council's "Values Voters Summit" favored Mr. Huckabee, five times as many as backed Mr. Romney. The result was muddled by a second count, including online voters, in which Mr. Romney edged Mr. Huckabee.

His weekend success was the clearest sign to date that the ordained Southern Baptist minister is making progress in becoming the favored candidate of religious conservatives, who play such a vital role in GOP politics.

And Mr. Huckabee's progress was underscored by his rise in the polls in Iowa, where religious conservatives may make up far more than half the turnout for the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Recent Iowa polls show his support in double digits. Two recent surveys put him just one point out of second, although still well behind Mr. Romney. But support for all candidates in Iowa is fluid.

One explanation for his gains is that he is running a more positive campaign than Mr. Romney or Mr. Giuliani. Displaying a kind of low-key charm, Mr. Huckabee has concentrated on his own views, rather than assailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

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