Looking at it another way, among likely caucus-goers who are "very enthusiastic" about their choice, Huckabee leads Romney by 37-25 percent. Among those who say they've definitely made up their minds, 34 percent support Huckabee, 24 percent Romney. That makes for a better turnout profile for Huckabee.
ENGAGEMENT – While Huckabee's supporters are far more excited, Iowa Republicans overall are much less enthused or engaged than their Democratic counterparts, and much more movable. Overall, a hefty 59 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers say they might change their minds, compared with 43 percent on the Democratic side. Indeed, 34 percent of Republicans say there's a good chance of it (compared with 20 percent of Democrats). The Republican race still has exceptional room to move between now and Jan. 3.
Compared to Democrats, fewer Republicans plan to attend a caucus, and among those who say they will go, fewer are certain about it. And overall 34 percent of Republican likely caucus-goers are "very enthusiastic" about their choice, compared with 49 percent of Democrats.
Other results also show how the Republican race in Iowa is a fairly low-wattage affair compared to the Democratic contest there. Likely Republican caucus-goers are far less likely than their Democratic counterparts to say they've attended a campaign event (29 percent on the Republican side vs. 52 percent on the Democratic), to have gotten a call from one or more campaigns (58 percent vs. 80 percent) or to have met a candidate (19 percent vs. 33 percent).
ISSUES/ATTRIBUTES – What makes Huckabee's standing all the more fascinating is that, as noted, he does not score well on some of the most prominent issues (such as handling terrorism, the economy, the budget or immigration) or personal attributes (such as electability, experience and strong leadership).
Terrorism is a clear Giuliani advantage, despite his low support overall. Romney leads easily in trust to handle the economy, the deficit and immigration. (There's quite a bit of division among Iowa Republicans on the top issue in their vote; 14 percent cite terrorism, 13 percent immigration, 10 percent Iraq, 10 percent abortion, 9 percent the economy, 8 percent health care and 7 percent moral or family values.)
On the personal attributes of electability and leadership, it's a Romney-Giuliani contest, not a Romney-Huckabee contest. Indeed, even among his own supporters in Iowa, just 42 percent believe Huckabee has the best chance to win the presidential election in November. Huckabee instead runs competitively with Romney on two of six attributes tested in this poll: being the most honest and trustworthy candidate (a weakness for Giuliani here and nationally as well), and empathy; and on just one of six issues -- "social issues such as abortion and gay civil unions."
According to the Washington Post's Campaign Tracker, Romney's held 129 campaign events in Iowa this year, compared with 90 by Huckabee and fewer by the others. Perhaps the sourest pill for Romney is to be challenged by Huckabee in Iowa despite this result: A vast 63 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers say it's Romney who's campaigned hardest in the state. A mere 8 percent say it's Huckabee.