Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has to share his spot atop the field of Republican Presidential hopefuls this week. The newest face in the race, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, is now tied with Giuliani. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds each man earning support from 24% of likely Republican Primary voters. A week ago, Giuliani had a six percentage point lead over Thompson, 23% to 17%.
It is not unusual for a candidate to gain ground in the polls when they first announce their intentions. However, Thompson’s rise has been meteoric. It remains to be seen whether the reality of his candidacy can measure up to its allure as an alternative for those dissatisfied with the other candidates in the field. At the moment, 59% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of their newest candidate. Just 14% hold an unfavorable opinion of Thompson while 27% are not sure.
Forty-two percent (42%) of Republicans view Thompson as politically conservative. Twenty-four percent (24%) see him as politically moderate, 3% say liberal and 30% are not sure. Twenty-one percent (21%) of Republicans view Giuliani as politically conservative (63% see the former Mayor of New York as politically moderate while 12% say liberal).
Just as startling as Thompson’s rise in this week’s poll is the continuing loss of support for Arizona Senator John McCain. The man once considered the dominant front runner in the race is now supported by just 11% of likely Republican Primary voters nationwide. That’s down from 17% in May and 14% a week ago. His support is just half of what it was in January.
Fred makes this race very exciting, but he’s had a big advantage: he hasn’t had to answer any tough questions. The real test is how he presents himself in the debate as well on the campaign trail. Rudy, Mitt, and McCain perform well in debates; if Thompson doesn’t do well or just has a mediocre showing in his first debate, it will be a big let down.