Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has taken his first lead in a public poll of GOP Iowa caucus voters, according to a survey of 839 likely caucus participants conducted November 26-27 by Rasmussen.
While still within the margin of error, Mitt Romney now trails Huckbaee 28 to 25 percent. A Rasmussen poll taken two weeks prior found Romney with a 29 to 16 percent lead over Huckabee. Romney has led the GOP field in almost all public polls conducted in Iowa since June 2007.
In the new Rasmussen poll, it is currently a two-person race for the GOP in the Hawkeye State, with Rudy Giuliani trailing by double digits at 12 percent, followed by Fred Thompson at 11 percent and Ron Paul at 5 percent. John McCain—who is focusing his efforts on South Carolina and New Hampshire—has now fallen into a sixth place tie with Tom Tancredo at 4 percent. Duncan Hunter rounds out the field with 1 percent support while 10 percent are undecided.
Romney’s campaign strategy hinges on winning the early, smaller states of Iowa and New Hampshire (where he is still polling with a double-digit lead) to increase his momentum and the accompanying positive media exposure that he hopes will boomerang him into competitive runs in Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida. If Romney does not win the majority of these states, which hold their contests in mid- to late January, the fear for the Romney campaign is that Giuliani (the national frontrunner) will be able to hang on and amass a big win on Super Tuesday on February 5th.
Huckabee’s surge in recent weeks has taken most pundits by surprise, and few have outlined a strategy where the former minister can go on to win the Republican nomination. The strategy, however, is this: Huckabee, who surprisingly has not won the endorsements of most prominent conservative religious leaders, is now starting to poll stronger in southern states. Huckabee polled in second place (17 percent) in the latest Insider Advantage poll in Florida and polled in double digits in recent Rasmussen and SurveyUSA polls in South Carolina. Huckabee’s competitiveness in these southern states appears to be correlated with the declining support for Fred Thompson.