The latest public poll for the Iowa Republican Caucus by American Research Group includes a new name in the mix: former Senator (and longtime actor) Fred Thompson. Thompson—not to be confused with former Wisconsin Governor and ex-Bush cabinet member Tommy Thompson—has not announced his candidacy, but is being encouraged to run by several elites within the GOP.
Thompson is considered to be a viable candidate because he is not considered to be too liberal for the GOP base (i.e. Giuliani's potential problem), he is not a party outsider (e.g. John McCain), nor does he have high unfavorable numbers like some potential conservative candidates (e.g. Newt Gingrich).
In the ARG Iowa poll Giuliani and McCain continue to lead the pack at 29 percent each. Thompson comes in third at 12 percent, besting Mitt Romney by 2 points. With the addition of Thompson, support for several traditional conservatives in the field fell sharply, apparently losing support to Thompson. In last month's ARG poll Gingrich, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee garnered a collective 19 percent of those surveyed. In the March survey with Thompson listed as a potential candidate, support for these conservatives fell to just 7 percent (with Thompson picking up the missing 12 percent).
Thompson did not run for a third term as U.S. Senator from Tennessee in 2002, but does not face the problem of name recognition that plagues other candidates, due to his high-profile appearances on television (Law and Order) and film (In the Line of Fire, Cape Fear, Die Hard 2, Days of Thunder, The Hunt for the Red October) in a 20-year acting career.