Following Huckabee's Iowa win, 25% of Republicans nationwide now rate him as their top choice for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, up from 16% in mid-December. Sen. John McCain also saw his support increase during that time, from 14% to 19%. After losing the expectations game in Iowa by coming in second, Romney is now suffering a decline in national support, putting him well out of range for the lead. His current 9% of the vote is his worst showing in the race since early October.
Support for Giuliani, who chose not to compete in Iowa and has been shut out of the media spotlight, has also dropped, from 27% to 20%. Fred Thompson and Ron Paul are essentially holding steady at 12% and 4%, respectively.
Huckabee's five-point advantage over Giuliani and six-point edge over McCain still fall within the poll's margin of error, so from a strict statistical perspective, the three are essentially tied.
The Jan. 4-6 poll marks the first time in nearly a year that Giuliani has not held a significant lead on the national ballot, though he clearly had been losing ground, slipping below the 30% mark in November and December. In late 2006 and early 2007, McCain and Giuliani were essentially running even. Then Giuliani surged into the lead in February, and had remained in first position ever since. The 20% support for him in the current poll also marks his low point since Gallup began tracking the national numbers in November 2006.
While Giuliani has reached his low point, Huckabee is now enjoying his highest level of national support since the campaign began. Huckabee's rise is reminiscent of other dark-horse candidates who rose from low single digits in the national polls during the early stages in the campaign to become real factors -- if not winners -- in previous nomination campaigns. Some of these candidates include Jimmy Carter in 1976, George H.W. Bush in 1980, Gary Hart in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Bill Clinton in 1992. Carter, Dukakis, and Clinton all went on to win their party's nomination, while Bush and Hart seriously challenged their party's front-runners although both eventually lost the nomination. Huckabee was in the low single digits in the national polls throughout much of 2007. He did not reach double digits until mid-November.
Huckabee's current front-runner status is bolstered by the poll finding that 33% of Americans, including 36% of Republicans, think he will win the Republican nomination for president. Eighteen percent each believe McCain or Giuliani will prevail, while 14% believe Romney will emerge as the Republican nominee.