December 9, 2007

A Huckabee Lead In Michigan?

Rasmussen's polling in Michigan has Mike Huckabee surging to the top of the leaderboard, a significant showing in what could be a critical state. The January 15th primary holds a significant number of delegates and could be seen as a harbinger of the other large states in the Super Tuesday races three weeks later:

Mike Huckabee’s surging campaign has created a three-way toss-up in Michigan’s Republican Primary. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds Huckabee earning 21% of the vote. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the son of a former Michigan Governor, attracts 20% support while former New York City Mayor is the top choice for 19% of Likely Republican Primary Voters.

Trailing the Michigan frontrunners are Fred Thompson at 9%, John McCain at 8% and Ron Paul at 7%. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter split 2% while 15% are not sure how they will vote. Michigan’s primary is scheduled for January 15, twelve days after the Iowa caucuses and a week after the New Hampshire Primary. Results from those earlier contests may have a significant impact on the Michigan results.

Currently, Huckabee has a slight edge over Romney in Iowa while Romney has the advantage in New Hampshire. Huckabee leads in South Carolina. Rasmussen Reports, the first firm to show Huckabee leading in Iowa, will be polling again in that state next week. In national polls, Huckabee and Giuliani are on top.

The Huckabee surge has started to get serious. No one expected his popularity to rise as sharply as it has in Iowa, but Iowa has always liked populists. South Carolina could have sympathy for a Southern governor. Michigan, however, has a strong Romney history and a liking for Giuliani. If Huckabee can take Iowa, South Carolina, and Michigan, it will change the entire calculus of the race.

First, an early string of Huckabee wins would almost certainly end Mitt Romney's run for the nomination. It will undermine the early-state strategy Mitt needs to shake votes loose in the big coastal states on February 5th. Without early-state momentum, those votes will not switch to Romney.

However, they could switch to Huckabee. Right now, Giuliani leads in New York, California, and Florida. If the voters in Florida and California get an opportunity to vote for a perceived moderate with pro-life credentials rather than a moderate with pro-choice credentials, they may choose Huckabee over Giuliani. Momentum could play a large part in that decision as well -- in effect, taking over the Mitt strategy for Huckabee.

It's still a long shot. The structure of the primaries favors Giuliani at this point, especially with Huckabee threatening Romney in Iowa. Michigan makes that long shot at least a rational bet. (via Memeorandum)


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