He led Mitt 28-25 in a Rasmussen poll of Iowa earlier in the week; the Des Moines Register has it 29-24, with Rudy at 13 percent and Fred, who by his own admission needs to finish in the top three, in single digits. Not enough to worry you? All right, how about Huck tacking on another two points since yesterday in Rasmussen’s daily national survey? He’s now within five of Giuliani for the national lead — again, without much by way of fundraising and without any major evangelical endorsements aside from the Falwell family. Still not enough to worry you? How about the fact that Geraldo think he’s super-keen? Rudy’s campaign admitted to the Telegraph that they’re pulling their punches on Huck right now because (a) he’s killing Mitt for them and (b) they have their eye on him as a VP candidate, but note well:

Former Giuliani speechwriter Fred Siegel told The Sunday Telegraph: “Right now, Huckabee is an unmitigated Godsend for Rudy. They have a shared interest in not attacking each other right now, but if Huckabee threatens to upset the apple cart in Florida, then the gloves will be off for the Giuliani campaign. Florida is his firewall.”

A senior Giuliani campaign adviser said: “Huckabee’s strong showing in Iowa has proved helpful to us. He is a very persuasive campaigner and it’s no secret that a lot of people would like him on the shortlist for vice president if Rudy wins the nomination…

“But the campaign is watching carefully because if he wins Iowa he could turn that into enough momentum to take South Carolina. Then he might be a threat.”

The one bit of good news this week for Rudy? Iowans don’t seem to care about his NYC expense scandal.

Here’s the New Hampshire Union-Leader’s endorsement of McCain, who’s third in most polls but turned up second in Fox’s poll, just eight points behind Mitt. He won the state in 2000 too, of course, which makes him slightly more likely to surge there, especially if Huck knocks off Mitt in Iowa. Suddenly Romney’s getting it on both sides: I said last week that his lead over Huck in New Hampshire is such that he could probably still take the state and remain viable even if he’s upset in Iowa. But what if McCain upsets him in NH, too? That leaves Romney 0 for 2 in the two states he’s staked his candidacy on with Michigan, the state governed by his father, presumably a must-win to have some sort of momentum going in South Carolina. It’s hard to imagine Mitt dropping out early with his war chest but it’s also hard to imagine him winning with Huckabee and McCain surging and Rudy still a threat to take Florida.

Exit question one: If Huck wins Iowa and McCain, the alternative centrist candidate, takes New Hampshire, where does that leave Rudy? Exit question two: If Huck does take the nomination despite having little money, few major endorsements, and a leftist streak on immigration and spending (“I drink a different kind of Jesus juice”), isn’t it proof that religious conservatives own the party? Ron Paul’s not going to win the nomination but there’s been talk lately of his candidacy as signalling a libertarian resurgence. Much will depend on how that resurgence shakes out on foreign policy but I can see a lot of righties disaffected by a Huckabee nomination tacking towards libertarianism in the aftermath.