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Huckabee sees 'new life' in presidential bid after Iowa straw poll

The former Arkansas governor who came in second in the contest last weekend told reporters at a Monitor breakfast that his campaign has signed up 1,000 new contributions and scheduled 16 new fundraisers.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / August 17, 2007

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee came to a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters Thursday morning still reveling in the political lift from a better-than-expected showing in last weekend's Iowa straw poll.

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"There is a new life in our campaign" as a result of coming in second in the Iowa contest among Republican presidential candidates, Mr. Huckabee said. The two-term former governor won 18.1 percent of the votes last Saturday versus front-runner Mitt Romney's 31.6 percent.

As a result of the strong Iowa showing, Huckabee said his team had scheduled 16 new fundraisers. "We had 1,000 new contributions, new donors to our website, from Saturday night to Tuesday morning. So clearly there is some momentum," he said.

But pundits and political writers are questioning how long the momentum will last. "I predict a year from now Huckabee will be a footnote of a footnote," said conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer on Fox News.

And an Associated Press analysis Thursday argued that "the traits that helped Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee race to a second-place finish in last week's Iowa straw poll might be more of a drag with voters in New Hampshire." The piece noted that many Republicans in New England are economic conservatives and social liberals.

Huckabee, who is a staunch social conservative and approved tax increases during his term as governor, said that when he read the AP story Thursday morning, "It caused me to get a third cup of coffee."

He professed optimism about his chances in New Hampshire with its key first-in-the-nation primary. "We have a great team on the ground there. I feel like frankly that we have as good if not better a chance to do well in New Hampshire as we did in Iowa…. The point [critics] were saying was that was my appeal is limited to values voters, religious voters. I don't think so."

Before entering politics, Huckabee was a Baptist pastor, having attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He later served as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

While both he and former Massachusetts Governor Romney have played influential roles in their respective denominations, Huckabee downplayed the possibility that voters might be concerned their religious views would intrude on government.

"I don't think people in America are that prejudiced or biased against people of faith," Huckabee said. "What they expect is that if you express a faith that they can trace it down to your roots and that they can also see it in your actions. The only thing people in America truly have a problem with is hypocrisy or phoniness."

The mood among the evangelical community is different than in previous national elections, Huckabee said. "There are a lot of issues people still care a lot about … but I don't think we are as clearly polarized, for example in the community of faith, as we once were where it is all about one or two issues. In fact, I think there has been somewhat of a maturing process among particularly Evangelicals."