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Huckabee Advancing in Iowa and New Hampshire

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Huckabee Advancing in Iowa and New Hampshire

Election 2008

Huckabee Advancing in Iowa and New Hampshire

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Back now with DAY TO DAY.

NPR's Ron Elving told us earlier about polls showing former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee shooting to a narrow lead now over Mitt Romney in Iowa. But in the state with the first primary, New Hampshire, Governor Huckabee is finding things a little tougher. Most polls there show him fourth among Republicans, but he is having an impact nonetheless, as Jon Greenberg of New Hampshire Public Radio reports.

JON GREENBERG: Mike Huckabee clearly feels the wind at his back. This past Friday he was in the state capital for a Chamber Of Commerce lunch. When Huckabee sat down to eat next to New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, they were surrounded in a classic fish bowl of video cameras and mics on fish poles.

Governor JOHN LYNCH (Republican, New Hampshire): What are all these cameras around?

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas): You know what?

Gov. LYNCH: What's going on?

Mr. HUCKABEE: It's a new day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUCKABEE: It used to be I was lucky if I had one print guy from a weekly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENBERG: The next day Huckabee was hosted at a house party in Bedford, one of the state's wealthiest and most Republican towns. On the drive in the only signs you saw were for Mitt Romney. But Huckabee has built his campaign on a solid foundation of social conservatives. One of his hosts on this morning is a well-known anti-abortion activist.

A guest, Paul Preston, says, quote, "Huckabee is one of us."

Mr. PAUL PRESTON: We're evangelical Christians and he believes as we do, and he has the same values that we do, and he's not going to say anything else to get votes.

GREENBERG: But beyond this base of believers, a broader range of voters are discovering Huckabee.

Ms. JENNIFER STITT: I personally am a pro-choice person.

GREENBERG: Jennifer Stitt is a Human Resource manager for a D.C.-based software company. Before Huckabee spoke, her greatest concern was his position on choice.

Ms. STITT: It's very difficult for me to vote for a candidate that might have so many things that I believe in, but there's one or two that I believe strongly in that they don't believe in.

GREENBERG: Huckabee's approach to conversation and issues would end up winning over Jennifer. On the stump, he is nothing if not casual. At one moment a baby began to fuss and its mother apologetically got up and crossed in front of Huckabee.

Mr. HUCKABEE: That baby was not bothering me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUCKABEE: Obviously I was bothering that baby.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUCKABEE: I know some of the rest of you would like to be crying. You just haven't felt how you could do that as an adult.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENBERG: When it was time for questions, the issue of central concern to Jennifer came up. Huckabee was asked, was it his ultimate goal to make abortion illegal? He answered in terms of a constitutional amendment.

Mr. HUCKABEE: I personally have always supported a human life amendment to the federal Constitution and still do. I realize that we may get there incrementally, but I want to get there.

GREENBERG: The human life amendment would ban abortion nationwide. But on this issue Huckabee spent more time talking about intrinsic equal worth and equal opportunity. Afterwards, Jennifer said that approach rang true.

Ms. STITT: I feel good about his answer because he - he had to really explain why it is that we are - we are all equal.

GREENBERG: Jennifer liked the other ideas he had, on immigration and education. But more important than issues, Huckabee had connected with her.

Ms. STITT: He has not just a great sense of humor, but he thinks on his feet, and he's processing what he's hearing, and he's a good listener. And he makes great eye contact. So I was really impressed with him.

GREENBERG: Jennifer said she is 90 percent there in backing Huckabee. The Arkansas governor is still not widely known in this state. But if he continues to succeed in these small settings and he gets a big boost coming out of Iowa, he might peak at just the right time.

For NPR News, I'm Jon Greenberg in Concord.

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