Thompson joked: "We're doing well based on our internal polling, too."
BLUFFTON, South Carolina (CNN) – Fred Thompson laughed off an internal poll released by the campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that showed Romney gaining ground among South Carolina Republican voters at Thompson's expense.
"We're doing well based on our internal polling, too," the former senator from Tennessee said with a laugh after a campaign stop here.
The internal poll, which was reported Tuesday by The State newspaper in Columbia, showed Romney surging to 20 percent, putting him at second place among GOP primary voters. Thompson maintained the lead at 24 percent but had dropped eight points since August.
Thompson had not seen The State report, but dismissed any notion the poll numbers were valid.
"I don't think I need to tell you what the polls are showing in terms of South Carolina," he said, referring to his consistent lead in most independent state polls.
In those polls, Thompson is narrowly leading former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Romney and Sen. John McCain are battling for third place.
Asked by CNN if he was planning to buy television ads soon to compete with Romney's current South Carolina airtime, Thompson wouldn't say. He acknowledged Romney has spent significant money on advertising here, but Thompson also said he would be "competitive" with advertising dollars in the near future.
"We know that others have spent millions and millions of dollars in their efforts," Thompson said. "They've spent money on television, they've spent money on radio, all of that. And we're busy raising money instead of spending money right now. But that situation will change as we get down the road a little bit."
[For more campaign news from South Carolina, check out the South Carolina Political Ticker.]
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby