Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to lead the race for the Republican presidential nomination but has seen a dramatic erosion in his support, which now stands at its lowest point of the year, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Giuliani’s support dropped from 37 percent in a July poll to 28 percent in the latest survey and his decline from February has been even more sharp. Then, he had the backing of 53 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and had a better than 2-to-1 advantage over his closest rival.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, who formally entered the race last week after months of exploration, now stands in second place in the GOP field, with 19 percent. That is nearly double the support he received in an April poll taken as he began to express serious interest in running.
But for all the anticipation about his candidacy, Thompson is roughly even with Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, whose campaign has weathered struggles over the Iraq war, immigration, fundraising and resignations of senior staff members. McCain is at 18 percent in the new poll, arresting a slow decline that began late last winter.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the only other candidate to finish in the double digits. His 10 percent is generally consistent with his national standing in Post-ABC polls since April, although he performs better in surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire. An August Post-ABC poll of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers had Romney in the lead.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is attempting to parlay a second-place finish behind Romney in the nonbinding Iowa GOP straw poll into momentum for his candidacy, remains far behind in the new national poll, but his support improved from 2 percent in July to 5 percent. The increase was largely the result of more support from women.
McCain’s stabilization presents a problem for Giuliani as both appeal to many of the same voters, particularly GOP-leaning independents and those Republicans unhappy with President Bush and the Iraq war. Considering poll respondents’ second choices, without McCain in the race, Giuliani’s support would jump to 36 percent, while support for Thompson, Romney and Huckabee would not increase appreciably.
Over the past two months, Giuliani has suffered sharp declines in support among women and self-identified Republicans. In July, he was the first choice of 40 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of women. The new poll showed that 28 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of women back his candidacy.