Gov. Mike Huckabee
With his support receding in Iowa and South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s surge to the top of the race for the Republican presidential nomination appears to have hit its high point, pollster Scott Rasmussen told WND.
“The Huckaboom may have crested,” said Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports.
Yesterday, Rasmussen released the results of a survey showing Huckabee falling back into a tie with Romney in Iowa and South Carolina.
In Iowa, Huckabee had a double-digit lead at the beginning of December. The Rasmussen poll yesterday showed him at 28 percent, with Romney at 27 percent and McCain in third at 14 percent.
Rasmussen cautioned that the cresting of the Huckaboom should be seen in context.
“If a month and a half ago I had told you that Huckabee was tied for the lead in Iowa and South Carolina, that would have been seen as great news for the then-long-shot Huckabee campaign,” he said.
“Huckabee built some support in Iowa, and then there was a huge round of enthusiasm as he built a double-digit lead in Iowa and a significant lead in South Carolina,” Rasmussen explained.
“But as Huckabee surged, the other candidates began to take Huckabee seriously,” he continued. “Then Huckabee began receiving a significant amount of negative campaigning in Iowa and South Carolina, and the negative campaigning is now having an impact.”
Does the endorsement by Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project help or hurt Huckabee?
“I think it will help,” he answered cautiously. “But I don’t think it’s definitive.”
“What’s happening right now is Mike Huckabee is going through a vetting process that other candidates went through earlier in the year,” he explained. “There is no one piece of information that is going to be definitive.”
Rasmussen said a defining demographic for Huckabee was his strong support among evangelical Christians.
“Huckabee went from 48 percent support among evangelicals in late November, which was huge, up to 62 percent a couple of weeks later, which was unbelievable,” he said. “Now it’s back to 49 percent.”
Rasmussen said Huckabee “resonates with certain constituencies and important parts of the population in Iowa, but there was another tier that was a little bit softer and they are re-evaluating.”
The pollster said Huckabee’s Christmas ad would have helped him nationally if not for the controversy that arose when critics accused his campaign of using subliminal messaging by making a bookcase in the background appear as a cross.
Rasmussen admitted his polling does not have direct data on the ad. He suspects that while it may have helped Huckabee strengthen his Iowa support, it is clearly having a negative impact outside the state.
“The Huckaboom has retreated from its peak,” Rasmussen said. “I live by the beach, so I tend to think in terms of tides. The Huckabee tide has pulled back from its high point, but we don’t know yet who is going to win Iowa.”
To put Huckabee’s rise in perspective, Rasmussen compared it to how Fred Thompson entered the race.
“Earlier this year, Fred Thompson looked good to outsiders,” he said. “As Thompson entered the campaign, his numbers went down dramatically.”
Rasmussen told WND the phenomena of Huckabee and Thompson show there is a serious level of searching for an alternative among Republican primary voters.
“The conditions remain right for a candidate to rise up and grab a section of the constituency,” he concluded, “because none of the Republican primary contenders has done so as yet.”