Nicholas Wapshott explains that other candidates made mistakes and the press helped him.
How did Mike Huckabee, a little known governor of Arkansas, find himself running neck and neck for the Republican nomination with Rudy Giuliani? How did the penniless Mr. Huckabee soar past the free spending Mitt Romney, estimated worth more than $200 million, in the early voting state of Iowa?
It is usually only paranoid conspiracy theorists who blame the press for causing the events they report, but in the case of the presidential race the insatiable need to find a new angle on an old story certainly helps the underdog. …
Quietly, while the big beasts of the Republican jungle were roaring and clawing at each other, the mild and modest Mr. Huckabee, like James Stewart as Jefferson Smith in Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” was making steady progress. As a Southern Baptist, he had spotted what may turn out to be Mr. Romney’s fatal weakness: his Mormonism. By playing up his own role as a “Christian leader,” and invoking at every turn Jesus as his mentor, Mr. Huckabee silently slipped a stiletto into Mr. Romney’s ribs.
Although the Massachusetts governor’s appeal last week in College Station, Texas, for religious tolerance and more religion in public life showed that he could look and talk like a president, by addressing the issue of his faith he has only drawn attention to it, causing more voters to consider whether or not they really would be happy with a Mormon in the White House.
The most recent Iowa poll, for Newsweek, puts the Arkansas governor at 39%, ahead of Mr. Romney’s 17%. And in the latest national poll, for CNN, Mr. Huckabee is just two statistically insignificant points behind the leader, Mr. Giuliani.
Fortunately for the GOP, Iowa is far from decisive.