A question is starting to emerge: Could Mike Huckabee win Iowa? I am going to answer yes. This is not yet a prediction, but it could be.
First, why it could happen. He is clearly rising in the polls into a clear second. And success begets success. And it seems clear that outside groups like NRLC will whack at Mitt Romney to drop his numbers. Lastly, everyone, other than Romney, wins by a Huckabee victory. I expect a bunch of autodials and people at the polls urging Giuliani and McCain supporters to go with Huckabee.
Romney’s expectations game is awful, and all the press, with a couple of exceptions, really doesn’t like him. A Huckabee success and a Romney failure would be the only story. Especially because whatever the story on the Dems side is the going to be the story. If Clinton wins in Iowa, she will have sealed the nomination and that will be the story. If Obama wins Iowa — becoming a real possibility with the Hillary collapse–, the story will be about how the game is really on in the Democratic nomination. I suspect that means that there is really only one GOP story out of Iowa.
But it might not happen. Huckabee is getting attacked by everyone. Romney and Thompson are attacking him on taxes. Romney on immigration (but Huckabee is attacking back on good ole’ Iowa values, where people mow their own lawns, not hire Guatemalan illegals to do it). And… there is little evidence that Huckabee can organize his way out of a paper bag.
The answer is that it is unsettled. Want to know how unsettled? Read on.
But two-thirds of Mr. Romney’s backers said they could change their mind, a strikingly large number; by contrast, half of Mr. Huckabee’s supporters said they could change their mind. And nearly every one of Mr. Huckabee’s poll measures in Iowa, where he has focused most of his resources, was encouraging: 50 percent of respondents had a favorable view of him, compared with 7 percent who said they viewed him unfavorably
|We agree on issues||14||15||11|
|He shares my values||13||13||19|
|He is a conservative||10||7||20|
|Honest and trustworthy||9||16||7|
|He has right experience||9||9||1|
|Stand on immigration||7||10||4|
|Stand on abortion||5||2||12|
The numbers suggest something more. Huckabee is way out ahead of Mitt Romney on "is a conservative", abortion, and "shares my values." But on "agree on issues", immigration, and "right experience", Huckabee is struggling places.
I suspect that the "issues" thing is really about taxes. There has been a lot of mail going out, phone calls, and people have run ads against Huckabee. Huckabee’s experience number can be moved with some good bio ads.
I am however, struck by Romney’s abortion number. This confirms the word on the street from Iowa. Romney’s voter base is the country-clubbers. They may well be moderates. Look at his second choice people:
Romney’s supporters’ second choice is Giuliani, followed by McCain and Huckabee. Huckabee’s supporters’ second choice is Romney, followed by Thompson.
So Huckabee has room to go positive and drive his numbers more. Of course, not just the guys that write happy are reading these polls. I would expect some interest groups or 527s whacking away at Romney in Iowa. NRLC’s endorsement suggests to me that they would do that. But something seems clear. Abortion talk may not drive Romney’s numbers down. Attacking him on immigration and his trustworthiness (flip-flopper?) might work.