Huckabee: I'm In The Top Tier After Iowa

Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee performs with an Elvis impersonator at the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007.
CBS/Vaughn Ververs
His second place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll vaults Mike Huckabee into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, the former Arkansas Governor said Sunday on Face The Nation.

"We're in fact in the first tier, I think, by everybody's estimation, and here's why," Huckabee told Jim Axelrod. "It wasn't just that we surprised people with a second showing, it's that we did it with so few resources. I mean, this really was feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves, an amazing kind of day for us."

The Huckabee campaign spent about $150,000 in the weeks before voters descended on Ames, and Huckabee said it had no bus caravans or campaign ads to attract more support.

"So when you look at what we were able to achieve, it was because people came to Ames to vote for us," he said. "And we had remarkable stories of people who came literally from all over America to work for us."

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who won the Iowa vote as expected, spent millions of dollars and put months of effort into getting a first-place showing.

Huckabee received 18.1 percent of the vote to Romney's 31.5 percent. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., finished third.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona did not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll, but Huckabee, echoing similar comments made by the Romney camp, said the results still matter.

"What they did was forfeit the game, and if you forfeit, it's a loss," Huckabee said. "I don't think it diminishes what the rest of us did. I think it only enhances it and shows that we play in middle America and they know they didn't."

Romney said earlier the poll did just what it was designed to do: Let candidates show they have support that could help them win this winter's Iowa caucuses.

Turnout was much lower this year in Ames than for past campaigns, but Huckabee said that had more to do with the heat and the state fair than politics.

"What we're still dealing with, though, is the universe of people who are willing to drive anywhere from an hour to four and a half hours away to come to Ames and spend all day in hot sunshine," Huckabee said, "unless they're in one of the air-conditioned tents of the other candidates."

The candidate was not alone in his assessment of the events in Ames.

"I think Governor Huckabee was arguably the biggest winner yesterday, because he did beat Sam Brownback, and the two of them were in a real contest for the hearts and minds of the social conservatives," David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register told Axelrod. "So I think Mike Huckabee clearly made some gains out of this."

But other political reporters on Face The Nation said that no one candidate carried the day in Iowa.

"The Republican Party is in a funk," Jim VandeHei, executive editor of politico.com, said. "What they want, what they need is political salvation. And they see it coming in someone who's conservative and electable. And I don't think anyone has closed the deal yet on that."

Without a surefire winner for the state's caucuses, Time magazine's national political correspondent Karen Tumulty said Rudy Giuliani has recalculated his strategy in Iowa. Originally his campaign was all but ignoring the state. Now he is spending more time and money there.

"He's clearly recalculated; he calls it a renewed emphasis on Iowa," she said. But she said sometimes the former New York mayor seems a little out of place in the heartland.

"It's sort of funny to see what happens when you take the city boy out of the city," Tumulty said. "And everything he sort of related to something in New York. At one point, he goes into a country and western wear store in Fort Dodge to buy some cowboy shirts, and he says, 'You know, they have bull riding in Madison Square Garden.'"