This past Saturday afternoon, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign seemed headed for oblivion. Strapped by money problems, he was unable to complete financially with the likes of Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback for voters at the Ames GOP Presidential Straw Poll.
After having earlier staked so much on this event, it appeared that he was destined to finish no better than a distant third. Such a result would likely have sent his campaign to the proverbial showers.
However, when the votes were finally counted, Huckabee got a very pleasant surprise. He had finished a strong second to Romney, garnering a vote total that amounted to more than half of what the former Massachusetts governor received.
Most importantly, however, he was able to edge out Brownback, his biggest rival for the social conservative vote. Most media outlets deemed him the “real winner” of the straw poll. Instead of going to bed Saturday night to ponder what might have been, he slept soundly with visions of southern primaries dancing in his head.
But will the straw poll results give his campaign new life or just a stay of execution? This remains to be seen. Many agree that Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, is a likeable candidate with a broad appeal that reaches far beyond his natural social conservative base. They also agree that he is a good debater who has performed well at each of the Republican presidential forums.
His obvious problem is money — he hasn’t raised much of it. Curiously, his impressive debate performances did not aid his fundraising efforts. He can only hope that his feat of exceeding expectations in the straw poll will. If it won’t, I’m not sure what else he can do at this point. Over the next several weeks, he’ll have to spend most of this time playing a game of “show me the money” with all of his actual and potential supporters.
If he can succeed, he could become a major player in the race for the GOP nomination. In addition, he would likely be able force Brownback to the sidelines and minimize potential candidate Fred Thompson’s impact with southern conservative primary voters. But he needs the money and it’s now or never.