The latest AP-Ipsos Poll on the Republican nomination for President shows former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee vaulting into second place and closing in on GOP front runner Rudy Giuliani:
Mike Huckabee has vaulted from nowhere into second place in the Republican presidential race, riding a burst of support from evangelicals, Southerners and conservatives, a poll showed Friday.Those numbers are also reflected in several recent national polls. There is no doubt that many conservatives have apparently found their champion. And as the article mentions, it is Fred Thompson who is paying the price.
The upsurge by the former Arkansas governor has come largely at the expense of Fred Thompson, according to the national survey by The Associated Press and Ipsos. Thompson has dropped after failing to galvanize the party's right-wing core as much as some had expected.
Rudy Giuliani remains the front-runner, yet while his support long has been steady it shows signs of fraying. Huckabee's growing strength in the South has come as the former New York mayor's support there has dropped, the poll found.
"Why not me?" Huckabee said in an interview Thursday. "I meet all the criteria. I'm conservative, but I think I appeal to a broader set of voters. And I think that people are also looking for someone with whom they can identify."
The poll showed Giuliani at 26 percent among Republican and GOP-leaning voters, about where he has been since spring. Huckabee has 18 percent, 8 percentage points more than in an AP-Ipsos survey a month ago.
That put Huckabee in a virtual tie for second with Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had 13 percent. Also close were Mitt Romney with 12 percent and Thompson with 11 percent.
Several lines of attack have opened against Huckabee by most of the candidates - the richest vein apparently being Huckabee's personal intervention with the Arkansas parole board to get a convicted rapist released who subsequently then raped and murdered two women. Huckabee denies using his influence but some of those involved in the case say otherwise.
Then there is Huckabee's record on taxes and spending that reminded Fred Thompson of Bill Clinton. Indeed, it is being whispered by all the rival campaigns that Huckabee looks more like a Jimmy Carter or a Clinton than a true conservative. Governors are big targets because they have fiscal responsibilities for their states that when fulfilling them can make it appear that they are liberals in disguise. But Huckabee raised taxes 21 times for more than $800 million while cutting taxes only $350 million. And spending increased a whopping 65.3% - over nearly a decade to be sure but that is still a considerable jump.
Will Huckabee's opponents be able to paint him as some kind of closet liberal? Very doubtful, indeed. More likely, people will take a second look at his lack of foreign policy experience and perhaps the scandal involving the rapist and decide to look elsewhere for a candidate.
The race is still in flux and anything can and probably will happen between now and January 3 when the voting begins in Iowa.