Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is the tortoise in a field of hares, but recent polls in Iowa show his slow and steady campaign gaining traction in the early-voting state, as he joins other GOP candidates in trying to aggressively unseat Iowa frontrunner Mitt Romney.
The former Arkansas governor is barely on the radar screen in most national polls, but a CBS/New York Times poll of 1,273 likely Iowa voters conducted Nov. 2-11 showed Huckabee closing in on Romney, even though he's spending a fraction of the money shelled out by the former Massachusetts governor.
"People in Iowa auction their cattle but not their presidential candidates, and for them it's not just about the money. It's about the message," Huckabee told FOX News Wednesday.
Huckabee earned 21 percent in the CBS poll, while Romney earned 27 percent, putting Huckabee inside the 5-point margin of error. 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 Romney with 30 percent, followed closely by Huckabee with 19 percent and Giuliani with 12 percent.
Romney, seeking to guard his shrinking lead, recently assailed Huckabee and Giuliani over supporting tuition breaks for illegal immigrants or their children.
But Huckabee on Wednesday said he's against amnesty for illegal immigrants and quipped that "Mitt Romney would rather keep people out of college so they can keep working on his lawn."
While the former Arkansas governor and pastor is staunchly against abortion, he has said he favors allowing illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to earn legal status.
As the war of words escalates between Huckabee and his opponents, Huckabee is relishing the new-found attention.
"The fact that I'm being attacked is a good sign," he said. "It's a sign of life. This is hunting season. I'm a hunter. You don't ever point your gun at a dead carcass."
Meanwhile, he and Giuliani appear to have an unspoken alliance, teaming up against Romney while simultaneously praising each other. Giuliani has not given great emphasis to early test states like Iowa or New Hampshire, even though he'll begin airing his first television ad this week in New Hampshire. But Huckabee's success in Iowa could help Giuliani by deflating Romney's standing.
"I think Mike's a wonderful guy. I have great regard for him and I have nothing bad to say about Mike Huckabee," Giuliani said Wednesday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Huckabee offered similar sentiments: "There is an authenticity about Rudy that people find refreshing, and I think the same is true in my campaign."
FOX News' Carl Cameron and Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.