Thompson Grabs No. 1 Spot From Giuliani

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"Fred's Number One."

That's the headline from Scott Rasmussen's poll numbers released today. The numbers: Thompson 28 percent, Giuliani 27, McCain 10, Romney 10. Thompson is up 4 percent from last week, Giuliani up 3, McCain and Romney down a statistically insignificant 1. Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback each have 2 percent; the rest of the candidates combined have 3. This is the first time this year that Giuliani has not led in Rasmussen's weekly surveys. Of course, Thompson's lead is not statistically significant, but it's impressive nonetheless.

The favorable/unfavorables are interesting:

  Fav Unfav None
Thompson 59 14 27
Giuliani 82 15 3
McCain 55 40 5
Romney 56 28 16

Thompson's fave/unfaves are excellent, and there's still some room for him to grow. But he could also tank. One good thing going for him is that in Rasmussen's polling he trails Hillary Clinton by only 48 percent-to-43 percent. This is not that much different from Giuliani's 47 percent-to-44 percent lead over her in a May poll (and results from other polls suggest that Giuliani may not be quite as strong as that today). Giuliani gets just 4 percent more against Clinton than he does against Thompson; Clinton runs 4 percent better against Thompson than she does against Giuliani. One argument that Giuliani backers could conceivably use is that Giuliani, with his crossover appeal in many states, has a better chance of winning than the very southern Thompson. Republican voters this year, like Democratic voters in the 2004 cycle, are very concerned about winnability. But these numbers suggest that this argument may not be very strong. May not be: We haven't seen how Thompson holds up under competition. He could get stronger or weaker.

Giuliani's fave/unfaves are outstanding. But obviously a lot of those who have favorable feelings are not voting for him, in many cases presumably because of his stands on cultural issues. That doesn't mean he can't win the nomination, but it is a problem. You can't imagine these fave/unfaves getting much better, so you have to assume there's a ceiling on his support in Republican primaries. In a multicandidate setting that's not such a big problem; in a one-on-one race it would be.

McCain's high unfaves among Republicans are jarring. They have presumably risen because of his strong stand in favor of the Senate immigration bill. I haven't been one of those who have declared that McCain is sure to lose. But these numbers have to change for him to be able to win.

I’m surprised that Romney's unfaves are as high as 28 percent. A 2-1 ratio of fave/unfaves among your own party’s voters is less than optimal. I'm surprised also that only 16 percent can't rate their feelings toward Romney. These results, taken together with Romney’s current strong show in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, certainly suggest he could win. But he's not nearly as well positioned, today, as Thompson.