- (Photo: AP Images / David Kohl)
Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee is gaining ground in Iowa among evangelicals attracted to his straight-arrow record on abortion, same-sex marriage, and family values.
The former Southern Baptist preacher was up until recently considered the underfunded and understaffed long-shot among Republican presidential candidates. However, a boost in endorsements by prominent evangelical leaders, a spike in donations, and a rise in polls has placed Huckabee among the first tier Republican contenders.
In particular, the former Arkansas governor has drawn attention with his advancement among evangelicals in the early voting state of Iowa.
One poll last week showed Huckabee in second place and another showed him in a dead heat with front-runner Mitt Romney, according to CNN.
Support from conservative Christians is driving the Huckabee wave in Iowa; Christians compose about 40 percent of the states GOP vote.
Gov. Huckabee stands on the issues I stand for, said Pastor Darran Whiting to CNN. Socially conservative as far as being pro-life, as far as being pro-family.
Huckabees Christian supporters, a growing number of which are pastors, praise his anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage record as well as his ease in speaking their language. The former preacher is known to naturally interweave biblical stories and cite verses in his speech.
We dont question where hes at; we dont question what he believes. Hes one of us, said Matt Reisetter, a young evangelical leader who signed onto the Huckabee campaign this month.
Huckabees campaign staff has reflected his growing popularity in Iowa and the nation. Recently, he more than double his staff from six to 14 people and expanded the campaigns workplace.
Huckabee is a very good candidate in the sense he makes a very good appearance, said Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief correspondent in Washington, according to CBS. I think that Huckabee actually has a chance to win other there (Iowa) If he does, that puts a whole new spin on the race.
A recent CBS News/New York Times poll shows Rudy Giuliani in third in Iowa at 15 percent and all other candidates in single digits including Fred Thompson with 9 percent.
According to the poll, Romney leads at 27 percent and Huckabee comes in second at 21 percent, with a five percent margin of error.
The Iowa caucus day is Jan. 3 with the next state on the campaign calendar being New Hampshire. Currently, Romney dominates New Hampshire with 34 percent in the poll with John McCain and Giuliani both trailing at 16 percent, according to CBS.