Breaking News: Watch out Rudy, here comes Huck!
A new national Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll released a minute ago reveals that the Mike Huckabee phenomenon has exploded far beyond Iowa; the former Arkansas governor is now threatening the national lead of longtime Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani.
The new numbers -- 17% for Huckabee and 23% for Giuliani -- show a steep slide by the former New York mayor since October's poll (when he had 32%) and a more than doubling of Huckabee support from 7% back then. This could mean the conservative religious vote, variously estimated at 20% to 40% of the Iowa caucuses, appears to be congregating around the genial Arkansan, who until now has lagged in fundraising. Such encouraging results may help donations now. The Times' Seema Mehta found great joy around the Huckabee headquarters in Des Moines.
And today, Mark Halperin of Time magazine's The Page reported that 60 Iowa pastors, some of whom had been backing former candidate Sam Brownback, endorsed Huckabee.
In the Democratic race, the new Times poll numbers show that despite numerous attacks and Iowa state polls revealing a tight race there among Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, Clinton remains the solid national frontrunner.
Clinton's national support among Democrats is 45%, down slightly from October's 48% but still more than twice that of Obama at 21% (who rose slightly from 17%) and four times Edwards' 11%, which is four points under Undecideds. Joe Biden and Bill Richardson each have 3% and Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich each have 1%. The Democrats' margin of error is plus or minus 4%; the GOP margin is plus or minus 5%. The poll of 529 Democrats and 428 Republicans was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 3.
Registered Democratic voters likely to vote in the primaries also appear more certain of their choice than Republicans; 61% of Democrats say they are set on their vote and 37% are open to change, while Republican voters show more volatility--only 48% certain and fully 47% subject to changing their mind.
Besides Giuliani at 23% and Huckabee at 17% (the same percentage as Don't Know), the GOP field spreads out with Fred Thompson at 14%, John McCain at 11%, Mitt Romney still struggling nationally at 9%, Ron Paul at 5%, Duncan Hunter at 3% and Tom Tancredo at 0%.
Among Democrats, 37% say new ideas are the most important criteria, while 28% say experience ....
is more important; 27% rank them equally. Among Republicans, national security is by far the top item, at 52%, with social issues second at 19% and both equally at 22%.
Who has the best chance of beating the Democratic candidate? Thirty-eight percent say Giuliani, 11% say Romney, 10% pick McCain and 6% each for Thompson and Huckabee.
Which Democrat has the best chance of winning in the opinion of Democrats? Clinton still leads, 54% to Obama's 17% and Edwards' 11%. Has Clinton been fairly or unfairly criticized by her party opponents? Forty-five fair, 39% unfair.
Interestingly, Huckabee leads Giuliani slightly, 20% to 18%, when Republicans were asked which candidate says what he believes rather than what voters want to hear. Thompson gets 15%, McCain 13% and Romney 8%. Fifty-two percent of Republican voters say Giuliani's pro-abortion stance makes no difference to them and 73% say they don't care if Romney is a Mormon.
Results also provide bad general election news for any Republican candidate right now. Clinton beats Romney head-to-head, 47-39, and Giuliani, 46-42. Obama beats Romney 45-33 and Giuliani 44-39.
Of all respondents, only 22% think the country is moving in the right direction; 65% say it's going in the wrong direction. Among Democrats, it's 12% right, 80% wrong; among Republicans, it's 44% right, 39% wrong.
What do you think about any of this? The Comments section is open below.