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Huckabee's next challenge

August 15, 2007 |  6:42 pm

What did Arkansas Democrats know that much of the rest of the political world didn't?

Even before Mike Huckabee's long-shot presidential bid got a much-needed boost with his surprise second-place finish in Saturday's Iowa Republican straw poll, Democratic operatives from the state he served as governor had their eye on him.

More precisely, they had a video camera trained on him, the Washington Times reported last week.

As Stephen Dinan detailed, the Arkansans recruited a young fellow to follow Huckabee in hopes of capturing a "macaca" moment -- a reference to the ill-chosen word caught on video that derailed George Allen's political career. (The Republican senator from Virginia, as you will recall, used that derogatory term last summer to describe a Democrat of East Indian descent who was trailing him, a faux pas that turned a seemingly easy reelection into a stunning defeat.)

An experienced speaker as a former Baptist pastor, Huckabee loves to pepper his speeches with laugh lines, so there's always a chance one of his quips could get him in trouble. But we doubt he'll commit an Allen-type mistake; he's far too facile on the stump for that.

Instead, Huckabee has a different worry: Can he take advantage of the bit of momentum he captured in the straw poll?

As The Times' Michael Finnegan writes in a story on our website and in Thursday's print editions, Huckabee parlayed his showing into a round of national television appearances. Sorely lacking in anything but a bare-bones campaign organization, he has reveled in the free airtime. But after becoming more than just a blip on the political radar screen, he's got to show that he can raise some serious money.

He told reporters this evening that he'd received more than 1,000 contributions from first-time donors between Saturday's straw poll and Tuesday morning. And he said his website traffic is up to 30,000 visitors a day, a previous week's worth of hits.

Aug. 11, the day of the straw poll, had been the big date circled on Huckabee's calendar. Now, it's Sept. 30 -- the last day of the third-quarter fundraising period. Expectations have been raised for Huckabee; to pass this next test, he must produce a bottom line over the next month and a half that can finance a broader campaign.

-- Don Frederick