'Likeable' Mike Takes Second Place in Iowa Straw Poll

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he has new momentum heading into the next phase of the Republican presidential campaign following his second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday.

Emphasizing his "clear financial disadvantage going into the contest, Huckabee attributed his second-place showing (behind former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney) to his experience as an executive leader, the strength of his message and his vision for the future.

"This caps off a great week here in Iowa," Huckabee said in a message on his website.

"My goal in Iowa was to introduce myself to voters in the Hawkeye State and create enough momentum to send our campaign to New Hampshire and South Carolina. We've met, and exceeded, that goal with resources both in terms of money and staff," Huckabee said.

In Saturday's informal Straw Poll -- a popularity contest -- Romney received 4,516 votes, (31.5 percent) compared with Huckabee's 2,587 voters (18.1 percent). Sen. Sam Brownback came in third with 15.3 percent of the vote, followed by Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, with 13.7 percent.

In the single digits were Rep. Ron Paul in fifth place (9.1 percent); Tommy Thompson, (7.3 percent). Thompson subsequently announced that he would drop out of the presidential race.

Fred Thompson, who has not officially declared his candidacy, received 203 votes (1.4 percent), followed by Rudy Giuliani (183 votes), Duncan Hunter (174 votes), and John McCain (101 votes). Neither Giuliani nor McCain actively participated in the Straw Poll.

Huckabee said the poll results "prove that our message of results-driven optimism resonates with real people; that our organization can put together a successful effort; and that Iowa is winnable for us."

Huckabee said he is especially proud of his strong showing because he spent far less money than the rest of the Republican field.

"I am looking forward to returning to Iowa to work even harder to lift our campaign to victory by showing Americans there is a higher ground to be reached by bringing hope back to America with fairer taxes, a working health care system, energy self-reliance, and reinvestment in America's future," he added.

Humor as a political tool

The New York Times, in a report on Huckabee's "underdog" campaign on Monday, noted that the Republican has "distinguished" himself "as a candidate of considerable humor who stands apart in this oh-so-serious field of presidential contenders."

According to the New York Times, Huckabee "uses humor as a way to court voters, soften rivals, make political arguments and seamlessly slice an opponent."

His humor, the newspaper opined, "is one reason Republicans have watched him as a potential dark horse."

A number of websites and blogs have used the word "likeable" to describe Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor also is known for plugging his 110-pound weight-loss with a book and TV appearances.

On the issues, Huckabee defends the Second Amendment as guaranteeing the individual right to keep and bear arms. He says he was the first governor in the country to have a concealed handgun license.

Huckabee says the first thing he would do as president is send Congress his plan for energy independence, which includes exploration, conservation, and pursuing alternative energy. "Part of winning the war on terror is achieving energy independence," he says on his website.

On foreign policy, Huckabee describes himself as a "steadfast supporter of Israel," and he opposes setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. "I am focused on winning," he says of the war. He said he favors "swift, surgical air strikes and commando raids" to fight the terrorists who train in small, scattered groups.

He also advocates a favors a renewed focus on diplomacy, so the nation can accomplish its goals with the support of other nations.

Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, is pro-life and supports passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. "I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned," he says.

On immigration, he says his number one priority is to secure America's border. "We need a fence along our border with Mexico, electronic in some places, and more highly-trained border agents."

And on taxes -- an area where fiscal conservatives have criticized him -- Huckabee says he supports the FairTax, which would replace all federal income and payroll taxes with a progressive tax on consumption (a national sales tax).

Huckabee raised fuel and sales taxes during his tenure as Arkansas governor, and various conservative groups have blasted him for it.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday in May, Huckabee defended his record, insisting that he also cut taxes during his tenure as Arkansas governor.

He said the fuel tax increase was part of a road-improvement program passed by Arkansas voters, and he said the money spent on fixing roads reduced motorists' repair bills and generated economic activity.

He says the higher state sales tax stemmed from a Supreme Court order to raise revenue for public schools. "We did it, but with the insistence that we wouldn't just raise money, we would raise standards and expectations, and we did," he said.

Huckabee noted that when he left the governor's office in January, he left the next administration with a surplus of nearly $1 billion -- "giving them the opportunity to cut the taxes even more."

See Earlier Stories:
Former Arkansas Governor Eyes Presidency (29 Jan. 2007)
Iowa Focus Group Gives Huckabee High Marks (6 Aug. 2007)

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