But while Romney's numbers are relatively unchanged since May, Giuliani's have slipped considerably, a shift that can be attributed, at least partially, to his decision to skip August's straw poll in Ames. In May, Giuliani polled at 17 percent, but has since fallen by 6 percentage points to 11 percent. John McCain, who also skipped the Ames poll, showed an even sharper drop in support, falling from 18 percent to 7 percent. Along with skipping the straw poll, McCain's campaign has struggled to recover from disappointing fundraising and staff defections.
The beneficiary of both men's drop may be the latest entrant to the race, former Sen. Fred Thompson. While he was not included in the May poll, this month he came in at 18 percent support -- good enough for second place. It also appears that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee did receive a bounce from his second place finish in Ames. After garnering only 4 percent in the May poll, Huckabee scored 12 percent support in the latest survey, putting him in a race for third place with Giuliani.
The poll comes just as the Iowa campaign is entering a higher gear and sets up some interesting possibilities, especially the prospect of Romney, Thompson and Huckabee vying for the support of Iowa's conservative base. If Romney can maintain his lead for another 4 months -- a difficult task for any candidate -- second place could become the real prize here, just like it was in Ames.