This column was written by Dean Barnett.
The only pollster that really matters is Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports. In addition to his unrivaled track record, Rasmussen is also the only pollster who is currently screening for likely voters. So when Rasmussen says something, we ought to pay attention.
Yesterday, Rasmussen released a poll of the Iowa Republican Caucus. Given its surprising results, I'm surprised it hasn't received more attention. Romney's winning with 25 percent; no big shakes there. Fred's in second at 19 percent; again, nothing earth-shattering. But here comes the bombshell: Mike Huckabee checks in at 18 percent, a stunningly strong third place showing and within shouting distance of the frontrunners.
A few weeks ago, I was guest-hosting for Hugh Hewitt on his eponymous radio show, and a caller stated that the Republican nominee would be Fred Thompson or Mike Huckabee. Reflexively, I shrieked, "Huckabee?!" I yelled it again: "Huckabee?!" But maybe the caller was on to something.
Obviously, Huckabee is making a move in Iowa. He has risen from the bottom tier. In fact, he's solidly in the top tier, at least in Iowa. He has a five-point lead over Giuliani and a twelve-point lead over McCain in the Ethanol State.
So let's play this out: If Mike Huckabee wins in Iowa, does he have a chance of going all the way? The governor has a few things working against him. Most notable are the facts that he has no money and even less name recognition. But let's say he wins Iowa. Will victory in the Land of Ethanol be enough to offset those deficiencies?
It's been said that winning Iowa will be worth $60 million in free media to the victor. When I first heard that, I remember thinking at the time what a stupid and unsupportable assertion that was. Why not $59 million or $61 million? Nevertheless, I pass it along to you to help make a point. Regardless of the precise monetary value of a Huckabee victory in Iowa, Mike Huckabee will become very famous very quickly if he wins there.
So then what happens? Well, first off, Huckabee will still have no money, so he'll have to live off his free media and will be unable to fend off the assaults that his rivals will surely launch. But more important, Republicans across America will get to know a new member of the top tier.
And they may well like what they see. Huckabee is the most natural campaigner in the bunch. Unlike one member of the top tier, there's no danger that he'll doze off in mid-sentence. Unlike other members of the top-tier, Huckabee's a social conservative's dream. You want someone rock-ribbed on the social issues? Huckabee's your guy. He doesn't even believe in evolution. His taxing and spending in Arkansas may not be every conservative's ideal, but Huckabee probably has fewer policy skeletons in his closet than anyone else in the field.
The Republican rank and file's disillusionment with the present top tier hasn't been any secret. They have long hungered for the proverbial "someone else" to make their right-wing dreams come true. Mike Huckabee has a real shot at becoming the "someone else" who finally sets conservative hearts aflutter.
By Dean Barnett