Polls: Huck (almost) catches Mitt in Iowa, coming on strong in South Carolina

All he needs now is some of James Dobson’s hot air and this balloon’s ready to soar. The evangelicals have probably been holding back because they don’t know if he’s for real. This ought to assuage them. As should this:

Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are tied for the lead in South Carolina’s Republican Presidential Primary.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds both men earning 21% of the vote from Likely Primary Voters. That’s a big change from September when Thompson was on top with support from 24% and Romney trailed the frontrunner by nine percentage points…

Trailing the two leaders are Rudy Giuliani at 13%, Mike Huckabee at 12%, John McCain at 9%, and Ron Paul at 8%. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter each earn support from 2% while 13% are undecided (see crosstabs).

Those numbers reflect a seven-point drop for Giuliani, a nine-point gain for Huckabee, little change for McCain, and a six-point jump for Paul.

How do you suppose Huckabee, a native southern son, will do in SC if he surprises in Iowa and picks up a big evangelical endorsement or two?

Not-so-minor detail in all this: If Rasmussen’s right, Mitt now leads in three of the four big early primaries — the exception, ironically, being the state his pops governed.