The University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll in today;s USA Today:
• Born-again Christian conservatives account for 44% of likely Republican caucus-goers and “there’s a real race going on” between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee for their support. For the three candidates virtually tied in second place, the key to becoming Romney’s chief challenger is to motivate them.
• Huckabee has the best shot. Rudy Giuliani has little chance of doing so — “it’s hard to see how he’s going to improve” — while Fred Thompson “is not really catching fire in the way some people thought he might.”
• Democrat Barack Obama is the “overwhelming” favorite of young people and the survey could be underestimating his support with that group. They are unreliable caucus-goers and many will be out of state on college break on the Jan. 3 caucus date. But Obama is being “more aggressive than anyone else has been” in trying to ensure they get to caucus, with more offices and more people on the ground, so he could have more success.
• The best predictor of someone showing up is having shown up before. In that respect third-place John Edwards is well positioned to challenge Obama and poll leader Hillary Clinton, because “75% of his supporters are experienced caucus-goers. They went in 2004.” By contrast, only 54% of Obama’s supporters caucused in 2004.
Here’s more bites on the same poll:
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On the Republican side, the Hawkeye poll showed that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has widened his overall lead by 8 percentage points, to 36.2%. But Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, has gained ground despite spending just $1.7 million compared to Romney’s $53.6 million. Huckabee is up from less than 2 % in the same poll in August to 12.8%, putting him in a statistical tie for second place with Rudy Giuliani who garnered 13.1%. Giuliani had spent $30.2 million as of September 30, according to Federal Election Commission reports.“If Huckabee can motivate religious conservatives to attend the caucuses in large numbers, he may well threaten Romney and close some of the overall gap,” said Redlawsk. About 44% of Iowa Republican caucus-goers consider themselves Evangelical or born again.
If this poll is to be believed, it looks like that straw poll “win” really did give him a lift. But even if Huck shows strongly in Iowa, does anybody really think the evangelical vote will carry him to the nomination? It seemed to propel Bush, but there were more forces at work than the religious right in 2000. All Huck would have is the social conservative base.