Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- While public polls show Mike Huckabee leading Mitt Romney in Iowa, a new survey of an oversized sample shows Huckabee slipping and no longer ahead of Romney.

A private corporate interest commissioned a phone bank survey of 15,000 Iowans who say they will attend Republican presidential caucuses Jan. 3. It showed Romney with 30 percent and Huckabee at 26 percent. Sen. John McCain was third with 12 percent and Rudy Giuliani fourth at 9 percent. Fred Thompson had only 1 percent, with slightly fewer votes than Rep. Ron Paul (also at 1 percent).

Numbers for both Huckabee and Romney dipped sharply when Iowans were asked their second choice. In contrast, McCain was the leading second-choice candidate for both Huckabee and Romney voters.

DOLE VS. HUCK

Unexpected late intervention by Bob Dole in the Iowa Republican caucuses confirms that Mike Huckabee may have blundered by assailing President George W. Bush's "arrogant bunker mentality" in international affairs.

"Why have you joined the 'Bush bashers'?" Dole asked in a letter to Huckabee that he made public. Dole, until now neutral in the 2008 contest, called Huckabee's critique of Bush policy in Foreign Affairs magazine a "perfect example of 20-20 hindsight."

Dole, who won the 1996 Iowa caucuses en route to the presidential nomination, told Huckabee that Iowans would not approve of his attack on Bush (who still gets 80 percent approval from Republicans). He concluded the letter with typical Dole humor: "P.S. I lost the General [election] in '96, so what do I know?"

OBAMA OVER MCCAIN?

Sen. Barack Obama's rise against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination leads some of the party's strategists to celebrate the prospect for a better match-up against Sen. John McCain as the Republican nominee.

"I'll take a 47-year-old [Obama] against a 72-year-old [McCain] any day," is the private comment of one prominent Democrat who long ago made Sen. Clinton his pick for president. Like many insiders of both parties, he considers McCain -- on the rise for the Republican nomination -- as the GOP candidate most likely to defeat Clinton.

A footnote: The fluid quality of the Iowa Democratic caucuses does not rule out the possibility of a first-place finish there Jan. 3 by John Edwards. That would be more damaging for Obama than it would be for Clinton, even if she finished third in Iowa.

CHARLIE'S MONEY

Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel is on pace to raise over $7 million in campaign money in his first two years as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, far outstripping anybody ever to hold that post.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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