WASHINGTON – Presidential contender Mike Huckabee is on the move, drawing larger than expected crowds on the campaign trail, witnessing a boost in funds, and scoring a major endorsement from a prominent Christian conservative leader on Thursday.
The Rev. Dr. Donald E. Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Association, has given his personal endorsement to the former Southern Baptist preacher.
"I think he shares our values," Wildmon said, according to OneNewsNow, which is operated by the American Family News Network.
"Will we agree with Governor Huckabee on 100 percent of items? No, we will not," the ordained United Methodist pastor admitted.
"But when you take the whole ball of wax, I think Governor Huckabee is the person we need," he added. "I think he has the skills to bring us together. I think he has the leadership and the vision, and I think he can take the country to that place where we need to be desperately at this point in our history."
A growing number of Americans are agreeing with Wildmon or at least considering a similar view of the former Arkansas governor.
Huckabee's campaign staff was pleasantly surprised Wednesday in Cedars Rapids, Iowa, when more people showed up than expected at a small rural community college – a situation occurring more frequently these days on the campaign trail.
"The candidate du jour right now is Mike Huckabee," said Chuck Laudner, executive director of the Iowa Republican Party, to the New York Times. "He certainly can win. It's still a wide-open race here in Iowa."
Huckabee has been rising in national polls and even bumped former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney from his top tier position for the first time last month.
In addition, he had a surprising strong second-place finish in August at the Iowa straw poll and came in second narrowly behind Romney at the Washington Values Voter Summit in October.
According to a survey of the National Association of Evangelicals' 100 board members in October, Huckabee was the "clear first choice," reported the NAE president Leith Anderson. However, Anderson noted evangelicals are still concern on Huckabee's ranking in polls.
"If he does well in the Iowa caucuses or early primaries then Evangelicals may suddenly rally to his support," the NAE head predicted.
Huckabee's appeal to social conservatives stems from his long-standing anti-abortion, anti-gay "marriage" stance as well as his ability to naturally cite Bible verses and stories in his speech. Yet he also ventures out of the conservative circle and attracts moderates being one of the few Republican candidates to speak on environmental issues.
Chuck Norris, the martial arts superstar and conservative columnist, and the Rev. Rick Scarborough, a high-profile pastor and the head of Vision America have also endorsed Huckabee.
Huckabee – who has been called the "dark horse" in the upcoming election – has somewhere from 13 percent to 19 percent of the vote in Iowa, according to the Los Angeles Times. Those numbers place him second behind Romney.
His campaign took in more than $1 million online in October – an amount that is more than raised in the entire third quarter, according to the New York Times.