USA Today and Gallup offer their latest in polling for both parties in the extended presidential primary race, and a couple of changes have raised eyebrows. First, even the rumor of a bid by Fred Thompson has dented Rudy Giuliani's momentum, while John McCain's decline in support appears to have leveled off:
"On the Republican side, former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson shook up the field with his announcement that he would consider getting into the presidential race. Thompson is familiar as the actor who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's Law and Order. Chosen by 12% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, Thompson is third in the Republican field. He trails former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, at 31%, and Arizona Sen. John McCain, at 22%. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is at 8%."
"Thompson's support seems to come largely from voters who had supported Giuliani. In the USA TODAY poll taken March 2-4, Giuliani's standing had been 13 percentage points higher, at 44%. McCain's support had been 2 points lower then."
"What does this mean? Conservatives who have supported Giuliani for his leadership and electability -- and plenty of them have -- would desert Rudy if a credible, consistent conservative entered the race... Thompson['s]... eight years in the Senate have left a more credible sense of consistency and center-right politics than Giuliani brings to the race. And according to the Post's blog The Sleuth, Thompson has begun seriously considering a run -- and has met with GOP powerhouse advisor Ed Gillespie."
Romney fared poorly in this poll... That has to be disappointing, especially since Hugh Hewitt's political biography and Romney's appearance at CPAC should have set the stage for a significant boost. Has Thompson's potential disrupted Romney's momentum as well? Possibly.