WASHINGTON – The latest poll out of Iowa solidifies Mike Huckabee's lead in the Republican presidential race, and shows the former Arkansas governor's momentum continuing to build despite several recent attacks on his record.
In the latest Rasmussen automated telephone poll released Tuesday, Huckabee leads the field with 39 points, 16 points higher than former Iowa frontrunner Mitt Romney, who polls at 23 points. Rudy Giuliani, who hasn't focused on Iowa, follows in third place with 8 percent while Fred Thompson gets 8 points, John McCain gets 6 and Ron Paul banks 5 percent of the 789 likely Republican caucus-goers. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.
The latest polling, taken just 24 days before the Jan. 3 first-in-the-nation caucuses, shows Huckabee up 11 points since late November and more than double his ranking from a month ago, when voters first started taking note. In that one-month span, Romney has lost 6 percentage points in the Rasmussen poll of Iowa voters.
The "Huckaboom," as supporters call it, has been responsible in part for an array of attacks on the candidate, including scrutiny of his decisions as governor on immigration and AIDS research and his role in the parole of a man who went on to kill again. Huckabee has so far managed those issues without too much fallout.
Much of the growth in Huckabee's support in Iowa has come from evangelical Christians, who make up roughly 40 percent of Republican caucus voters there. Romney, a Mormon who delivered an impassioned speech last week about the role of faith in politics, trails Huckabee among other Protestant voters 33-25 percent, according to Rasmussen.
In the less religiously influenced New Hampshire, Romney still prevails in polling, maintaining a 15-point lead in an average of five polls taken in the last two weeks. In the latest Mason-Dixon poll of 400 likely Republican primary voters interviewed between Dec. 3-6, Romney won 25 percent of respondents' support compared to 17 percent for Giuliani, 16 percent for McCain, 11 percent for Huckabee, 6 percent for Thompson and 5 percent for Paul. The margin of error was 5 percent in that poll.
Nationally, Giuliani still maintains his lead, though it's been chopped from a 17-point high in various polling in early November to roughly 4 percent in an average of polling in the last two weeks.
According to the latest CBS/New York Times poll, Giuliani is feeling the heat from Huckabee with Romney just six points behind in third place nationally. That poll shows Giuliani with 22 percent of the vote in a nationwide poll of 301 registered Republican voters while Huckabee gets 21 percent and Romney gets 16. In that poll, Thompson and McCain tap out at 7 percent each.
Despite the upward mobility, Huckabee's ascendance has not moved seeming general election voters. In a CNN nationwide poll of 1,002 adults taken between Dec. 6-9, only McCain wins one of 12 possible hypothetical match-ups with potential Democratic nominees — 50-48 against Hillary Clinton. He ties Barack Obama 48-48 in the mock race.
In that poll, Huckabee rates 44 percent to Clinton's 54 while he gets 40 percent to Obama's 55 percent and scores even lower against John Edwards, 60 to 35 percent. Giuliani falls 6 points behind Clinton, 51-45, and 7 points behind Obama, 52-45. Giuliani scores 44 percent to Edwards' 53 in the imaginary set-up. Romney is 11 points behind Clinton, 13 behind Obama and 22 behind Edwards.