What a difference a week makes.
I honestly didn’t expect a large boost for Fred Thompson after he officially declared his candidacy. He had been “on the verge” for so long that I believed most Republicans had already accepted him as a candidate and that any bump he got from announcing would be a blip, barely beyond the statistically significant.
But polls taken in the last 72 hours tell a different story. Apparently, many conservatives who had been flirting with both Romney and Giuliani are taking another look at Thompson, tightening the race nationally while showing a definite “Fred Surge” in one key state.
First, the national numbers. Rasmussen:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that Fred Thompson is enjoying a bounce from his formal entry into the Presidential race.
In the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination, Thompson is on top for the first time since late July. The former Tennessee Senator is currently the top choice for 26% of Likely Republican Primary Voters. Rudy Giuliani, who has been the frontrunner for most of the year, is close behind with support from 22%. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earns the vote from 13% while 12% prefer Arizona Senator John McCain. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee remains atop the second tier at 6% (see recent daily numbers).
Now that’s what I call a surge.
CBS has Fred moving up as well, narrowing the gap with Giuliani:
After seeing his support among Republican primary voters rise to 38 percent in August, Giuliani was backed by only 27 percent of respondents in the most recent survey, narrowing his lead over Thompson to 5 percentage points after holding a 20-point edge last month.
While Thompson, at 22 percent support, is now a close second to Giuliani, he was not the only Republican to seemingly benefit from Giulianiâ€™s fading numbers. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was written off by some after months of staff upheaval and disappointing fundraising, saw his support increase 6 points since the last survey to 18 percent. On the other hand, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won Augustâ€™s straw poll in Ames, Iowa, saw little benefit nationwide, scoring 14 percent support - largely unchanged since last month.
Gallup gives Fred a smaller bump (19% - 22%) but still significant.
Obviously, Fred is tapping into a conservative base that was unhappy with Romney and especially, Giuliani - for different reasons. Romney’s calculated moves to the right have not sat well with many while Giuliani makes no bones about his differences with many conservatives, although he’s probably conservative enough for most Republicans. Unease with Giuliani’s experience as well as his stands on root Republican issues like abortion and gay marriage have some of the base looking for an alternative.
Romney, still mired in the mid teens nationally, may be getting a little desperate. A poorly disguised political dirty trick directed against Thompson has backfired:
A top adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears to be behind the launch of a new Web site attacking GOP presidential rival Fred D. Thompson during his first week on the trail.
The site, PhoneyFred.org, painted an unflattering picture of Thompson, dubbing the former TV star and senator Fancy Fred, Five O’clock Fred, Flip-Flop Fred, McCain Fred, Moron Fred, Playboy Fred, Pro-Choice Fred, Son-of-a-Fred and Trial Lawyer Fred. Shortly after a Washington Post reporter made inquiries about the site to the Romney campaign, it was taken down.
Before it vanished, the front page of the Web site featured a picture of Thompson depicted in a frilly outfit more befitting a Gilbert and Sullivan production than a presidential candidate.
The Republicans have a long way to go as far as being internet savvy. You can bet if a Democratic candidate set up an attack website, there would be no way to trace it back to the campaign. The Washington Post was able to unmask the fake Fred site in no time.
Meanwhile, in California, the latest Survey USA (GOP) poll has Giuliani edging Thompson 28%-26%. Their last poll in early August had Fred trailing Rudy by 11. The Mother of all Primaries on February 5 next year will include California, Illinois, and New York along with 16 other states - at least (it is still not clear whether Michigan and Florida will toe the party line and push their primaries back to February 5 or later). Fred’s best chance for a big state win on Mega Tuesday will probably be California since Romney’s dad was a governor of Michigan and Rudy looks unbeatable on his home turf of New York. Florida is another possibility for Fred as several of his key advisors have ties to Jeb Bush. Regardless, all of these numbers should give a little momentum to Fred as he wades in to the money morass and attempts to raise funds.
That, of course, is the key; turning these surging numbers into a flood of mother’s milk. With the constraints on his fund raising abilities off, Fred is going to have to raise at least $1.5 million a week between now and the end of the year by my calculations in order for him to be competitive in the early primaries and caucuses. This is more than doable if his operation is finally set and he has the people he wants in key positions. Any confusion at the staff level from here on out will reflect badly on the candidate and this will almost certainly affect his ability to raise money.
What The Fred Surge says about the race is that it is still wide open. You have to wonder if New Gingrich isn’t seeing the reaction to Thompson entering the race and contemplating his own prospects.
At this point, anything and everything is possible.
Steve Smith emails from the Romney campaign with an explanation of the “PhoneyFred.Org” website that the Washington Post charges a top aide to the campaign with involvement:
As reported in the Boston Globe, the site has no direct affiliation to our
campaign, and we had no knowledge of its development.
Once we received inquiries about the site, we discovered it was created by an
individual who parked the site temporarily on the company server space of a
firm whose financial partner is a consultant to the campaign- Mr. Tompkins.
Mr. Tompkins also had absolutely no knowledge about the development of the site
or that it was temporarily parked on the firmâ€™s server.
We informed this party that as a result of that server use, we were receiving
inquires about the site. We made it clear that we did not approve of the site
and asked for immediate action to make sure it was again in no way affiliated
with the campaign.
The person responsible is not an employee of ours, but we took immediate action
to make sure it was clear the site was not affiliated with the campaign.