Huckabee Challenges Romney for Lead in Iowa, Hauls in $1 Million by Midnight Deadline

Thursday , November 22, 2007



The cash register struck a million at midnight for the Cinderella presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee.

According to the former Arkansas governor's Web site, he received $1,043,496.41 in donations in the first 20 days of November, exceeding the campaign's goal of $1 million and inching closer to meeting the monthly goal of $2 million.

The GOP dark horse-turned-contender has been riding a surge of strong polling and buzz in Iowa and played a significant role in hauling in gobs of online donations by the midnight Tuesday deadline.

And Huckabee's good news didn't stop there.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday, the once relatively unheard-of politician is pulling closer to even with front runner Mitt Romney among primary voters in the Iowa Republican caucuses. Twenty-four percent of likely GOP voters in the Hawkeye state told pollsters that Huckabee would be their nominee in the presidential race, while Romney holds a narrow lead with 28 percent.

The ABC-Post poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent, putting Huckabee in a statistical dead heat for first place with Romney.

RAW DATA: Click here for detailed poll results (pdf)

Huckabee's support in Iowa has gone from 8 percent in a poll in late July to 24 percent now, up threefold. Mitt Romney has 28 percent support, essentially unchanged from 26 percent in July, ABC reported.

"We're thrilled. It's a great, great sign for us," Huckabee told FOX News Wednesday, touting his recent fundraising. "You're seeing people who are coming around and looking at the substance of the message."

Huckabee, a Baptist minister, has soared to 44 percent support among evangelical Protestants, up from 16 percent last summer; he now leads Romney, a Mormon, by 2-1 among evangelicals, who account for nearly four in 10 likely caucus-goers. Huckabee also leads Romney among all weekly church-goers, albeit by a much closer 8 points, the network reported.

The Arkansas governor has appealed to donors over the past month, asking for their help in raising more than $1 million online in the first 20 days of November — and more than $2 million by the end of the month.

"The buzz around our campaign is building," Huckabee said in his fundraising pitch, asking donors for anywhere from $1 ("a buck for Huck") to $1,000.

Huckabee is also hitting the campaign trail with a pair of zany endorsements, talking up the celebrity support he’s earned from actor Chuck Norris and wrestler Ric Flair, who plans to travel with Huckabee to South Carolina Nov. 24.

And he's using the offbeat endorsements to draw donors to the Web site. On the site is a television ad that is also airing this week in Iowa, where Norris and Huckabee trade riffs on the long line of Chuck Norris jokes that play on his tough-guy image.

“My plan to secure the border? Two words; Chuck Norris,” Huckabee says in the ad.

Answering back, Norris says, “Mike Huckabee’s a lifelong hunter, who’ll protect our second amendment rights.”

The tongue-in-cheek ad drew criticism from GOP opponent Fred Thompson’s campaign. Spokesman Todd Harris said it demonstrated Huckabee “has confused celebrity endorsement with serious policy.”

But Huckabee has been trading barbs with Thompson and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a lot recently, perhaps a sign of his viability as he creeps up in the polls.

And he's hitting back. Huckabee told FOX News Sunday he was taken aback by the National Right to Life Committee’s recent endorsement of Thompson, and challenged the former Tennessee senator's claim to be staunchly anti-abortion. Huckabee said in the interview he rejects letting states decide whether to allow abortions.

Recent polling has shown Huckabee, who just a few months ago trailed far behind his opponents nationally, steadily catching up, and in Iowa jumping into second place.

A CBS/New York Times poll of 1,273 likely Iowa voters conducted Nov. 2-11 showed Huckabee closing in on Romney, who is leading in that state. Huckabee earned 21 percent while Romney earned 27 percent. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is leading in most national polls, clocked in at 15 percent.

Another Iowa poll of 600 likely voters from each party conducted by Strategic Vision, LLC from Nov. 9-11 showed similar standings. In the GOP race, Romney led with 30 percent, followed closely by Huckabee with 19 percent. Giuliani earned just 12 percent.

“We think we are on target not only to do well in Iowa but to go on with that momentum and do better than expected in New Hampshire,” Huckabee told FOX News. “I am not sure what will happen but for 11 months people have been writing my political obituary and we are talking today about the Mike Huckabee surge – we were talking about the Mike Huckabee dirge a few months ago, so I say just keep watching, this thing is not over yet.”

In appealing for broader online financial support, Huckabee could be looking to follow in the footsteps of dark horse candidate Ron Paul, even though Paul has demonstrated the ability to raise far more money. The Republican Texas congressman pulled in $4.3 million Nov. 5, considered a one-day online record for a GOP candidate.

But Paul, who leans libertarian in his ideology and is strongly anti-war, has not yet caught fire in the polls the way Huckabee has.

FOX News’ Carl Cameron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.