After a surprise second-place finish in the Iowa Republican straw poll on Saturday, Aug. 11, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed victory. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, has been considered a second-tier candidate in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
“For all practical purposes, we won the Iowa Straw Poll,” Huckabee stated. “If you think about how little money we had and how little we spent to get here, it says more than being in second place.”
“We’re in fact in the first tier, I think, by everybody’s estimation, and here’s why,” Huckabee claimed. “It wasn’t just that we surprised people with a second showing, it’s that we did it with so few resources. I mean, this really was feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves, an amazing kind of day for us.”
During his speech at the event, Huckabee compared the Republican congressional losses in 2006 to when Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not bear any fruit. He claimed that Republicans—like the fig tree—had been guilty of “false advertising” by failing to live up to campaign promises.
Huckabee garnered 2,587 votes (18.1%) of the 14,203 total votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was expected to win, placed first with 4,516 votes (31.6%). Other top finishers included Sen. Sam Brownback with 2,192 votes (15.3%), Tom Tancredo with 1,961 votes (13.7%), and Ron Paul with 1,305 votes (9.1%).
National frontrunners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain did not participate in the straw poll and have lagged behind Romney in Iowa polls. The two candidates, along with potential candidate Fred Thompson, each garnered less than two percent of the vote. Former Wisconsin Gov.Tommy Thompson dropped out of the presidential race after his sixth-place finish.
As a second-tier candidate, Huckabee has had some difficulty in attracting support and contributions. Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, previously stated that he admired Huckabee but doubted he could win.
Some commentators suggested that Huckabee’s success in the straw poll may help his campaign and hurt that of Brownback or possible candidate Thompson. Huckabee contended that his second-place finish in the straw poll will provide his campaign with momentum and proves that he can win.
“This caps off a great week here in Iowa. My goal in Iowa was to introduce myself to voters in the Hawkeye State and create enough momentum to send our campaign to New Hampshire and South Carolina,” Huckabee stated. “We’ve met, and exceeded, that goal with resources both in terms of money and staff.”
Huckabee urged people who agreed with him but did not think he could win to join the campaign. He stated, “All those people that told us that if we got some traction, they’d be with us, well, we’ve got the traction, it’s time for them to be with us.”
Huckabee argued that his vote was particularly significant considering that his campaign was out-spent by others, such as those of Romney and Brownback. While some campaigns set up large tents at the straw poll and bused people in, Huckabee’s campaign had a small stage and supporters carpooled to the event. National home school advocate Michael Farris reportedly helped organize carpools for home school supporters to show up for Huckabee.
“We had a minimum amount of resources and made a maximum amount of gain,” Huckabee explained. “Tonight’s results prove that our message of results-driven optimism resonates with real people; that our organization can put together a successful effort; and that Iowa is winnable for us. We over-performed by having more votes than tickets purchased and having no paid media, unlike other candidates.”
Earlier in August, Huckabee suggested that he might run for president as an independent if the party chooses a pro-choice nominee. Additionally, Huckabee’s campaign sparred with Brownback’s after an Iowa pastor supporting Huckabee sent an email to other Iowa pastors that the Brownback campaign called “anti-Catholic.”
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.