Republican Race Still Wide Open

Republican Presidential hopeful, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, left, accompanied by military veterans, speaks on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, in Columbia, S.C, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007, where the South Carolina Chapter of the National Veterans Coalition announced their support for his candidacy.

It's been decades since a Republican primary race was this wide open, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

"Any of five candidates could conceivably get the nomination," said Republican strategist Whit Ayers, who claimed that's partly because the top candidate's positions are remarkably similar, with a few notable exceptions.

"[John] McCain on immigration and climate change, [Rudy] Giuliani on abortion and gay rights," Ayers said.

At a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday, Fred Thompson hinted at the reason why candidates' positions are so alike. "Well, you know from what they're saying today, there's not that much difference," he said. "But from what they've said their entire career, up until now, there's a lot of difference."

Pollsters pin the lack of consensus for a candidate on an apathetic Republican electorate. In a recent CBS News poll, 32 percent say they're less enthusiastic about voting than they were four years ago, compared to just 15 percent of Democrats.

"What they're really looking for is Ronald Reagan," said Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. "And he's not here."

Sanford says the trouncing taken by the GOP in the 2006 midterm elections has made Republican voters cautious.

"In some ways, Jesus himself could come back as a candidate and there'd still be the introspection, with a lot of folks out there saying, 'I don't know, I don't like his robe, I don't like his beard,'" he said.

Polls show Mitt Romney leading by double-digits in Iowa and seven points in New Hampshire. He visits both states every week. He's battling it out for first in Michigan and in a three-way dead heat in South Carolina, two other early primary states. But polls show Rudy Giuliani leading nationwide.

"Those that do share common values with regards to social conservatism probably have 70 percent of the votes split among quite a few of us," Romney said. "And As the race narrows down, you'll see that conservatives will rally around a candidate, and that'll be our nominee."

That's why with less than two months to go before the first primary, you'll hear those candidates taking every opportunity they can to tout their conservative credentials.