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Huckabee Talks About His Rise In The Polls

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was considered a long shot for the nomination just a few weeks ago.

But on Sunday morning he woke up to headlines in the "Des Moines Register" that he was leading in the polls in Iowa one month before the state's influential caucuses. On Monday morning, his picture was on the cover of "USA Today."

"Well, there's a new slogan - the best part of waking up is seeing your face on the front page of the paper… without a number on your chest, and that's a good thing," Huckabee said on CBS News' The Early Show.

In an interview with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith from the campus of Central College in Pella, Iowa, Huckabee talked about how he went from events with thirty people over the summer to the support he has now.

"I think the people of America started paying attention to the race," the former Arkansas governor said. "They really are realizing that it's not about waving a checkbook in front of the voters, it's waving some ideas in front of the voters, getting them to understand that electing a president is not electing a person who can just raise money, but who can raise the future of this country, not just for Republicans, but for everybody. This is a very polarized country. People are looking for somebody who is going to lead vertically, not horizontally."

Much of Huckabee's support comes from evangelical Christians. It's a big, powerful voting bloc in Iowa among the Republicans who really do go to the caucuses.

But can a Baptist preacher become president of the United States?

"We're going to find out this year," Huckabee says. "No, I think it's not about being a Baptist preacher, it's about being an effective governor for 10 1/2 years and a lieutenant governor before that."

"But having been a pastor, it helped shape me in understanding the real issues that people face, because nobody sees humanity up front and closer than does a pastor," Huckabee adds. "You have a front row seat to every social pathology that's going on in this country. And so you see life from the cradle to the grave, and I think it has helped shape me as a public official, not to be sterile, not to be indifferent, callous, and sort of detached, but very much aware."

Huckabee also talked to Smith about a varied number of issues, including abortion, his record on taxes and Iraq.

On Abortion:

"Unfortunately, a lot of times the pro-life issue has been seen as anti-abortion. It's not that for me. It's about the affirmation that every life has intrinsic worth and value. So it's not saying I'm against something. I'm for looking at every person, regardless of his or her I.Q., his or her economic status, and saying as a human being they're important," he said.

On His Critics:

"There will always be the critics," he said. "You can't answer every critic. If you do, that's all you'll spend your time doing. One of the things I think people are responding to in my campaign -- they're not seeing me going around bashing the other candidates. I think people are so sick of that. What they want to know is what would I do for America, not what I would do to the other candidates."

"This whole sort of taking the hammer against the kneecaps of my opponent-type philosophy, I believe has been counter-productive for my opponents," adds Huckabee. "It seems like the harder they hit me, the better my numbers I get. So I would say hit me again."

His Record On Taxes:

"In the 10 1/2 years I was governor, the state and local tax burden, according to the U.S. Department of Chamber of Commerce, went up all of 1.1%," he said. "Income tax was the same as it was. There was a one-penny difference in the sales tax, but we also improved education, which is a good thing, partly because of Supreme Court order."

"But they forget to tell you that we cut taxes 94 times, we eliminated the marriage penalty, we cut the taxes for the lowest income earners," Huckabee continued. "The tax policies we did helped the people at the bottom reach the next wrung on the ladder and that's the kind of real tax policy the country's looking for to help working people."

Iraq:

"I've been pretty clear that the surge is working," said Huckabee. "We need to make sure that we finish this mission and we finish it with honor. There are two reasons why. If we don't succeed in Iraq, someone takes in that vacuum, and it won't be people who like us. That's not a good thing. The beachhead that will be established for terrorism is something we can't live with."

"We also would demoralize our military… and it would take a generation to rebuild that," he said. "I've been over there, and I'm telling you, the guys that are there believe and know they're getting a job done and doing it right. A lot of mistakes made. We all acknowledge it. But the biggest mistake now would be to just leave before we have finished the job that we went there to do."

On Foreign Policy Experience:

"You know, sometimes that's the question," said Huckabee. "Gosh, he's been a governor, but so was Bill Clinton, so was Ronald Reagan. And if you think back, Ronald Reagan went into office with this big rap against him -- he doesn't know anything about foreign policy. He was an actor, you know, he was a governor. What could he possibly do? Within ten years there wasn't a Cold War, the Berlin Wall was down, and there wasn't a Soviet Union.

"I'd say he had a pretty good record, and you know why, it's because he had principles, he had convictions," Huckabee said. "He knew that America had to be strong. We had to have a strong military because peace is not achieved by being weak. It's achieved by being strong. And having the kind of military that nobody out there wants to engage in a battle."

Energy:

"The biggest threat that we face is our own enslavement to foreign oil," he said. "One of the first things that I want to do as president is to accelerate our pace to become energy independent, because if you want to know why we're so afraid of what's going on in Iran -- their capacity to build a nuclear reactor is based on oil money."

"What if they had to finance that reactor by selling rugs? They couldn't do it," he added.

Lastly, Smith asked Huckabee what he read from the Book Of Proverbs this morning, which Huckabee said he does every day.

"Well, I will read it later, but chapter 3, versus 5 through 6 -- trust in the lord with all thy heart, cling not to your own understanding," he replied. "In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."