Two polls out today show Fred Thompson picking up a head of steam and moving toward the leaders.
A PPP poll out today (sampling from yesterday) shows Fred in a virtual tie for second with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee:
Public Policy Polling South Carolina Republican Primary (PDF warning)
McCain – 28%
Huckabee – 20%
Romney – 18%
Thompson – 17%
Paul – 4%
Giuliani – 4%
And Zogby’s 4 day tracking poll has Fred moving up also, passing Romney for third place:
Zogby South Carolina GOP Primary Poll
John McCain 29% (-)
Mike Huckabee 22% (-1)
Fred Thompson 14% (+2)
Mitt Romney 12% (-1)
Ron Paul 5% (-)
Rudy Giuliani 5% (-1)
Historically, a candidate that is surging sees a lag in poll numbers of a couple of days because of the way polls are conducted. Even a tracking poll will have a slight lag for similar reasons.
Other polls released in the past few days show Fred in a slightly worse position. But if you take out the highs and lows while averaging Fred’s support it would appear that Thompson is virtually tied for third with Romney with Fred’s numbers going up, Huckabees going down, and McCain staying pretty much the same (about a 6 point lead over Huckabee).
Romney took one look at this situation and headed for Nevada. Declaring McCain the winner in South Carolina, Mitt will race around Nevada until the Saturday Caucuses, trying to build on his narrow lead over McCain in that state.
Meanwhile, Fred is still splitting the anti-McCain vote in South Carolina three ways and is desperately trying to peel supporters away from Huckabee.
It’s working. But is it working fast enough for Fred to win in South Carolina?
The answer is almost certainly no. Another week and who knows? But the primary is 48 hours away and I don’t think he can cut into McCain’s lead enough to overtake him. The Arizona senator has what Zogby calls a “very stable” lead. It would be the upset of the campaign season if Fred were to beat him.
I do think, however, that a strong second place is within Thompson’s grasp. Huckabee is changing his positions on issues almost every news cycle now, trying to stop the bleeding. What I’m sure he sees in his own polls is Fred’s surge and the fact that being hammered on immigration and taxes is playing very well for Fred in the state.
And cheer up, Fredheads. I think a second place for Thompson means a ticket to Florida and probably Super Tuesday. Why should Fred drop out when nothing has been decided and he has proven he can come back? There’s another debate before the Florida primary and lord knows what Fred will come up with for that one. Probably has the rest of them wondering too.
I predict Fred will get into the low 20’s on primary day. Considering he was single digits in South Carolina earlier this month, that would be a stupendous comeback. And in this, the wackiest primary season in a while, none of the top 5 candidates can really be consigned to the dustbin of history quite yet.
Color me between denial and bargaining. I’d sell my soul for a Fred win.