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Snake hunting aside, the Huckabee surge continues

November 28, 2007 | 12:25 pm

All praise is due the dynamic duo who pen the Washington Post's Reliable Source column, Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts. When an obvious follow-up was called for, they rose to the occasion.

Like many, we think, the pair was struck by a line that leapt out of a Post story Sunday on the dramatic hike in support for Republican Mike Huckabee in Iowa. The surge has been so surprising, the piece noted, that during the extended Thanksgiving weekend, his Iowa state director was "in Costa Rica hunting snakes."

The aide, Eric Woolson, was back on the job at the start of this week and, via the Reliable Source, he expounded on his unusual avocation here. He noted that as a political operative, some folks might consider his recent trip "a working vacation." But he charitably added: "I wouldn't be quite so kind."

The good tidings continue for Huckabee, meanwhile.

Today, he was endorsed by Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the well-known televangelist who passed away earlier this year. Also, for the first time, a poll shows Huckabee atop the GOP presidential field in Iowa (though his lead over Mitt Romney -- whose camp once though it owned the state -- in the new survey by Rasmussen Reports, is within its margin of error). For a look at the results from several recent Iowa polls, go here.

Here's another shocker...

A new poll in Florida by Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion shows Huckabee in second place, behind Rudy Giuliani (for whom winning the Sunshine State is a virtual must).

By contrast, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey in Florida puts Huckabee in fifth place (though in a virtual tie with John McCain and Fred Thompson).

Despite the conflicting results in those last two polls, there is little doubt that, as MSNBC's First Read political note put it today, "besides Hillary Clinton going on the offensive against Barack Obama, Huckabee’s rise in the polls could very well be the biggest political story in the last couple of weeks."

His billowing backing in Iowa has come even though, unlike most of this year's White House contenders, he hasn't been camped out in the state. The Politico has the details on that here. And the New York Times today examines the degree to which reservations among Iowa evangelicals about Romney's Mormonism has fueled the Huckabee boom. Intriguingly, the piece notes that the former Arkansas governor "waffled in recent interviews about whether he considers Mormons to be Christians."

All of this makes tonight's CNN/Tube debate among the Republican contenders particularly well timed. The Times' story almost assuredly will spur an effort to pin down Huckabee on the Mormon issue. As detailed in a Robert Novak column earlier this week, his record can be expected to come under intense attack. And presumably, attention will be focused on his so far little-scrutinized call for scrapping the income tax system and replacing it with a national sales tax.

-- Don Frederick