It confirms that Fred Thompson is solidly in second place behind Rudy Guiliani -- 29% to 20 %. Guiliani lost 4 points from the last poll -- Thompson went up 3 points.
Mitt Romney slightly gained ground compared to the last NBC/WSJ poll, from 12% to 14%.
John McCain, not unexpectedly, plummeted from 22% to 14 % into a tie for 3rd place with Romney. McCain believes he is right in championing the disastrous immigration reform "compromise," and McCain has always said that he would rather be right than be President. It looks like he will get his druthers.
Things remain fluid, with many polls indicating that fewer than 10% of voters -- even in saturated early primary states -- are firmly settled on a candidate.
Although there is a long ways to go, a few things can probably be said with confidence.
First, Thompson's entry into the race will mean Gingrich is going to stay out -- just as well, since we need a fresh start.
Second, none of the 2nd tier candidates are going to have a chance to move up into the first tier. While there are good ideas and policies to be found amongst the 2nd tier candidates (think Ron Paul and his reminders to Republicans of our anti-interventionist heritage, think Tancredo and Hunter on immigration, think Mike Huckabee backing the Fair Tax) there is no-one there who would be a top-level general election candidate. The debate performances have demonstrated that.
Third, Guiliani continues his slow slide downward in all of the major polls -- but remains unquestionably the man to beat.
It should be remembered, though, that having a socially liberal candidate like Guiliani at the top of the heap is an anomaly caused by one major factor: the antipathy that the "heir-apparent," John McCain, elicits from rank-and-file Republicans. This left an unusual gaping void early-on, and Guiliani was adept enough to step quickly into that void before a conservative Republican stepped forward (OK, Romney tried, by changing all of his positions to match those of the base -- but Republicans aren't biting.)
Unfortunately, he doesn't have the stuff to fill the entire void -- he's great on tough-guy take-charge stuff, but his liberal records on gun-control, immigration, abortion, gay marriage, etc. make him someone who won't be able to rally the base. Thus Thompson's improbable grassroots surge.