Clemson University’s “Palmetto Poll” of likely voters in South Carolina’s January ’08 presidential primaries shows some surprising results — perhaps most of all, that Fred Thompson led the GOP race some weeks before he announced last Wednesday.

The poll gave Thompson 19% to Giuliani’s 18%, with McCain at 15% (with a hefty 35% negative rating) and Romney at 11%. Thompson also had both the highest favorable rating, 65%, and the lowest unfavorable, 7%, of the GOP hopefuls.

On the Democratic side, Clinton has a ten-point lead over Obama (26% to 16%), and Edwards trailing six points after. Interestingly enough, Obama’s favorable rating has gone from 82% to 62% in the past ten months, dropping him right into the pack.

Pre-primary polls are probably as sketchy predictors as any “scientific” poll can be; primary voters tend to be activists at heart, and the sample population in this poll was largely church-going and averaged 55 years old. Still, that’s a significant demographic in my home state, and it does suggest Giuliani’s got a fight on his hands — and that from a candidate undeclared at the time. It also suggests that, just like last time, Edwards’ “Southern” roots won’t amount to much in the election.