In the wacky, roller-coaster affair that is the 2008 Republican Primary race, long shot candidate Mike Huckabee has suddenly become a serious player in the fast-approaching Iowa caucus.

Huckabee was last heard from when he finished a strong second in Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll in August. Pundits argued if the cash-strapped Huckabee campaign could take advantage of the press that came with its strong finish. And for a while, it really didn’t seem like they could take advantage.

Enter two polls – a CBS News/New York Times that came out November 13, and one from the American Research Group from between November 10 and 14 – has Huckabee charging in Iowa faster than a socialite with a platinum card on Black Friday.

Huckabee has rocketed past Giuliani, McCain and Thompson, all of whom wrote Iowa off to Mitt months ago.

The Huckabee surge raises two very interesting issues.

First, if Huck can win or finish a strong second to Romney in Iowa, it will throw a serious wrench into Mitt’s strategy. If he doesn’t have the momentum from Iowa, Romney faces a tougher fight in New Hampshire, where Giuliani has begun to campaign harder and where McCain has historical strength among the Granite State’s independent-minded voters. In other words – a strong Huckabee finish in Iowa poses a serious threat to Romney.

The second issue is, again assuming Huckabee has a strong finish in Iowa, does Huckabee become the major story and become a part of the conversation? If he does well in Iowa, he just needs to finish respectable in New Hampshire and try to make it to South Carolina, where his southern roots and conservative credentials could catapult him into the mix for the nomination.

Personally, I think the first issue is a lot more likely than the second, but this certainly adds yet another wrinkle to a campaign season that has more of them than a 90-year-old man’s rear-end.

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