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Success is testing the Huckabee campaign

The tiny campaign of former Gov. Mike Huckabee is growing so swiftly, some have scrambled to buy winter coats so they can volunteer for him in Iowa.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The tiny campaign of former Gov. Mike Huckabee is growing so swiftly, some have scrambled to buy winter coats so they can volunteer for him in Iowa.

"Our campaign is not about high-paid consultants," Huckabee said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's about ordinary people who've come from as far away as Oregon and Florida to get to Iowa, many of whom are coming up there from Southern states where they're having to buy a coat so they can survive going door-to-door, answering phones, getting out material and signing up people for the caucuses."

Huckabee has climbed to second place in Iowa polls despite having millions fewer dollars than his rivals. The former Arkansas governor is doing so well, his aides wonder if his campaign can keep up with the momentum.

"I think the organization has to catch up to the candidate and the candidate's message," said Eric Woolson, Huckabee's Iowa state director.

Gaining momentum
Huckabee, speaking with reporters in Washington, said: "Is momentum enough? No, but if momentum turns into the ground game, the money and everything else, then yes, it is."

"We tend to forget that at this stage of the game in 1979, Ronald Reagan was flat broke and was in fourth place," Huckabee said, recalling a recent encounter with campaign strategist Ed Rollins, who worked for Reagan.

"He said, 'We were so broke, we were sleeping three to a room in New Hampshire and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,'" Huckabee said.

Reagan had angered the GOP establishment by challenging President Ford four years earlier, and he wasn't expected to win, Huckabee said.

"Now he's the icon, and everybody wraps themselves up in Ronald Reagan, and he's the standard bearer, you know, he's the gold standard of the Republican Party," Huckabee said. "He was anything but that, prior to his election and his term."

His campaign plans
Huckabee's fundraising is eclipsed by that of Mitt Romney; the former Massachusetts governor has raised more than $62 million, while Huckabee has raised about $5 million.

So while voters are seeing Huckabee's first television commercials this week, they aren't seeing other typical signs of activity.

"I don't know that there will be any direct mail in the next 38 days" from the Huckabee campaign, Woolson said.

For now, the focus is on personal contact with voters and building support one precinct at a time. Huckabee pointed to a Washington Post-ABC News poll indicating that his supporters are more enthusiastic about their candidate. Nearly half of his supporters said they definitely would vote for him, while 29 percent of Romney's supporters said they would definitely vote for Romney.

"We've got to have people who, no matter how much snow is on the ground, no matter how good the Orange Bowl is, they're going to still come out and be there with us on caucus night," Huckabee said.