By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C. December 20, 2007 ( – Former Arkansas Governor and pro-life candidate Mike Huckabee has soared to the top in the Republican presidential primary putting him in a dead-heat with former New York mayor and long-time front-runner Rudy Giuliani in the latest Zogby/Reuters poll.

The Zogby/Reuters poll has placed Mike Huckabee in a dead heat with front-runner Rudy Giuliani in the national 2008 Republican presidential race. Huckabee has cleared an 18-point deficit in one month, putting him within one point of Giuliani, 23 percent to 22 percent, a figure well within the 4.8 percent margin of error.

“Huckabee is on a roll, he has gotten an enormous amount of publicity and he is doing very well with conservatives, who at least for now appear to have found a candidate,” said pollster John Zogby according to Reuters.

Huckabee moved ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was in third place at 16 percent, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson at 13 percent, Arizona Sen. John McCain at 12 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 4 percent.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday shows Huckabee in third place striking distance behind Giuliani and Romney. Both are tied at 20 percent after Giuliani’s lead dropped in the last month from a solid lead of 33 percent. Behind the top three were Arizona Sen. John McCain at 14 percent and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson at 11 percent.

Huckabee has also closed the distance or overtaken front-runners Giuliani and Romney in a number of key early state primaries, with New Hampshire as a notable exception.

A just released CNN-Opinion Research poll shows Huckabee dominating in Iowa, where the voting kicks off January 3, with 33 percent support among likely Republican voters followed by Romney with 25 percent, and Giuliani in third at 11 percent.

The poll reveals that part of Huckabee’s strength is that he is the most trusted candidate on abortion and has strong support from evangelical Christians.

With South Carolina’s Jan. 19 primary a month away, a new CBS News poll finds Huckabee leading Romney there by eight points among likely Republican primary voters with 28 percent support to Romney’s 20 percent. Giuliani lags behind at 12 percent, while McCain has 11 percent and Thompson has 10 percent.

Huckabee also has made huge inroads in California, closing a large gap behind leader Rudy Giuliani according to a Field Poll conducted December 10-17. Giuliani still leads with 25 percent support, a figure unchanged from October, but Huckabee’s support has skyrocketed to 17 percent from 4 percent over the same two months in California, the biggest prize of all the primaries and a state with a more liberal GOP.

Californians go to the polls on February 5 or “Super Tuesday,” the day when more than 20 states will also hold primaries. California will select about one-fifth of the delegates needed to choose the Republican candidate at the GOP convention.

A poll by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV taken December 9-13 among 500 likely Republican voters in Illinois, showed Giuliani with 23 percent support among Republican voters in that state with Huckabee again very close behind at 21 percent. The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points. Romney held third at 14 percent, followed by McCain at 12 percent, and Thompson with 11 percent.

In New Hampshire, whose primary is held January 8, Romney leads in the latest Mason-Dixon poll taken between December 3-6, with 25 percent support, followed by 17 percent for Giuliani, 16 percent for McCain, 11 percent for Huckabee, 6 percent for Thompson and 5 percent for Ron Paul.

Huckabee has had difficulty selling his message to voters in New Hampshire, where residents do not pay either state income or sales tax. Voters there have looked askance at his “FAIR tax” plan, which would replace federal income and investment taxes with a 23 percent federal sales tax and rebate taxes equal to sales taxes paid on essential goods and services.

Huckabee’s stellar rise from single percentage points to now jostling for lead position among the Republican contenders has astonished analysts who have termed it the “Huckaboom.” For now it seems that Huckabee, the winner of the Values Voter Debate in which neither Giuliani, Romney, McCain, or Thompson participated has garnered the tentative confidence of religious conservatives and pro-life and pro-family advocates. 

Most political analysts, however, seem to agree that the race is still too fluid at this stage to determine whether Republican voters strongly identify with the candidates, and that the numbers could easily change in the weeks leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire.

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