Huckabee Rising, Edwards Falling

Mike Huckabee has moved into second place in Iowa while John Edwards continues to fall off the radar screen, Jay Newton-Small reports for TIME.

The latest still photo from the slow motion, inter-party electoral horse race known as Iowa is in — and it looks like John Edwards is losing steam on the Democratic side while Mike Huckabee is charging at the GOP frontrunners.

The University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll, released at 8 a.m. Monday morning, shows Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a heated battle on the Democratic side. Clinton leads the poll with 28.9% while Obama garnered 26.6%. John Edwards trails with 20%, a 6-point drop from the last Hawkeye poll in August.

For Edwards, who has basically been living in Iowa (and who parlayed a second place finish there in 2004 into a spot on the Democratic ticket), the results have to be disconcerting. Unlike Obama and Clinton, he has few other strongholds, and a poor showing in Iowa could place his candidacy in serious jeopardy.


On the Republican side, the Hawkeye poll showed that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has widened his overall lead by 8 percentage points, to 36.2%. But Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, has gained ground despite spending just $1.7 million compared to Romney’s $53.6 million. Huckabee is up from less than 2 % in the same poll in August to 12.8%, putting him in a statistical tie for second place with Rudy Giuliani who garnered 13.1%. Giuliani had spent $30.2 million as of September 30, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

“If Huckabee can motivate religious conservatives to attend the caucuses in large numbers, he may well threaten Romney and close some of the overall gap,” said Redlawsk. About 44% of Iowa Republican caucus-goers consider themselves Evangelical or born again.

The latest Hawkeye Poll comes less than a week after both parties set their caucus dates for January 3, the earliest presidential tests ever. The truncated schedule means that candidates will have to finalize their pitches before the holiday season. It also makes candidates vulnerable to any last-minute news events or surprises since they will not have time to respond after the holidays. And given the how long the race has already gone on, many Iowans have begun to make up their minds: overall, less than 10 % remain undecided.

I remain dubious of polling on such a nebulous event as the Iowa Caucuses, where a couple of busloads of bought-and-paid-for supporters can change the outcome. There’s simply no reliable way to sample the right universe.

Further, I’m still of the view that Iowa will mean less than ever this year. While some have argued that the compressed primary schedule makes the early ones more important than ever, I continue to believe the opposite is true. There’s just too little time to build momentum from early wins and translate that into fundraising. Candidates who have large amounts of cash on hand should be able to bounce right back, presuming they have support in early follow-on states.

Huckabee is on my January list of People Who Won’t Get Elected President. The list looks pretty good still, with four of the eleven having already withdrawn. Of those listed, only Huckabee and Ron Paul have made any noise at all.

Huckabee’s success, thus far, is in winning a meaningless straw poll in Iowa and riding that to high poll numbers in that tiny, unrepresentative state. Paul has managed to raise a lot of money and appeal to a passionate Internet following. The path of either to the Republican nomination continues to elude me, however.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Craig says:

    Here’s Ron Paul’s path to the Republican nomination:

    1. Spend the $5 million plus he had on hand at the end of September, and the $2 million plus he’s already raised in October, to increase his low name recognition.

    2. Appeal to the 30+ percent of Republicans who want to bring our troops home from Iraq within 6 months (50+ percent in Iowa.)

    3. Appeal to Libertarian-leaning voters in New Hampshire and Nevada, early-contest states that just happen to have the highest per-capita Ron Paul donation rates.

    4. Utilize his incredible grassroots volunteer network (60,000+ supporters in over 1,000 Meetup groups nationwide) to do well in low-turnout early events in Iowa, Wyoming, and Nevada.

    5. Capitalize on Democratic infighting in Michigan to post a surprisingly strong finish there (he drew 2,000 supporters to a post-debate rally there.)

    When the smoke clears at the end of January, Ron Paul is going to be a top-three Republican contender going into the February 5th sweepstakes.

  2. Wayne says:

    I agree that Huckabee is at great disadvantage when it comes to money and recognition. However that may change. He seems to impress many when they hear him. He seems the sort that many conservatives could get behind. Of course he must find ways to be heard or it won’t matter.

    However it seems he is getting airtime and recognition. It is possible that he will have a snowball affect where the more recognition he gets the more money he will get which create more recognition and so forth.

    I wouldn’t bet much money on it but with the dissatisfaction with many of the top tier candidates, I can see it easily happening.

  3. chukmaty says:

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