The avalanche of momentum for soon to be declared GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson of Tennessee continued in this week’s Rasmussen Reports poll. Last week, Thompson was tied with Giulaini at 24%, but this week he has moved ahead of the former New York City mayor 28%-27%. His lead is still within the margin of error, which is 4 points, so the net result is a statistical tie. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain continued their slides closer to also ran status this week by falling into a third place tie with 10% each. This week marks the first time all year that someone besides Giuliani is at the top of the Rasmussen Republican weekly poll.

Giuliani remains the candidate with the highest approval rating in either party. Eighty two percent of Republicans approve of Giuliani, and only 15% of those asked have an unfavorable opinion of him. Thompson has a 59% approval rating, while Romney and McCain bring up the rear at 56% and 55% respectively. There is a simple reason why voters like Giuliani, but they aren’t giving him their full support. He isn’t conservative enough. Only 21% of those surveyed viewed Giuliani as politically conservative, but double that number said that they viewed Fred Thompson as a conservative.  The Rasmussen Reports polls are a little different from most others because they take into account the ability of Independents to vote in the primary of their choice in several states.

This poll includes both Republicans and Independents who say that they are likely to vote in the Republican primary, but when the Independents are taken out of the poll, Thompson’s support increases. Among only Republicans, Thompson leads Giuliani 29%-24%. Romney and McCain remain virtually unchanged with each receiving 11% and 10% respectively.  Even though voters don’t know exactly where he stands on the issues, Fred Thompson has an advantage because he has been able to sit back and see what kind of candidate Republican voters want. In my opinion, if Thompson runs a very conservative campaign, he has a strong shot at the nomination.

I think Thompson would probably lose to any of the Democrats in November, but if Bloomberg enters the race as an independent, enough support could be split, so that if the conservatives came out strong they could put him in the White House. It is still uncertain if this support of Thompson is based on actual support for the candidate, or just a protest vote against what the voters have been offered as alternatives. Fred Thompson is going through his flavor of the month phase right now, but it is clear that GOP voters want a more conservative candidate than Giuliani, and if Thompson offers that, he will be a major player in this nominating process.

Link to the poll

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 6:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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