DURHAM, New Hampshire (CNN) – Following a town hall at a Granite State business, Arizona Sen. John McCain called Mike Huckabee a "very attractive candidate" and a "very smart guy."
McCain's words come one day after a Des Moines Register poll shows the former Arkansas governor leading the Republican presidential pack in Iowa after spending most of the race as a second-tier candidate.
"I like him and I wish him well," said McCain.
The presidential hopeful then added, "I think I am more experienced and have better judgment on national security issues but I certainly congratulate him on the campaign he's run."
The Republican presidential rivals have traded compliments this primary season. Last month, Huckabee told an Iowa audience that when it came to the Arizona senator’s opposition to waterboarding – an unpopular stand with the GOP base - he “would defer to John McCain for this simple reason: John McCain has been tortured and nobody else running for president has."
"I'm not about to stand on any stage in America and act like I know more about torture than John McCain does," said Huckabee.
– CNN New Hampshire Producer Sareena Dalla