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What was his first clue?Views: 1310
Jan 22, 2008 11:14 pmWhat was his first clue?#

Lili Fuller
CORAL BEACH, Fla. — Fred D. Thompson, the former senator of Tennessee, dropped out of the Republican race for president today.

The decision came after Mr. Thompson’s third-place primary showing on Saturday in South Carolina, a state he had once hoped to win, instead underscored the weakness of his campaign.

“I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort,” he said in a statement. “Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.”

Mr. Thompson’s advisers said he would not make an endorsement in the race.

Mr. Thompson, 65, rode in to the campaign powered by the high hopes of conservative Republicans who were disappointed with the field of candidates and hoped that Mr. Thompson — a television actor and former counsel to the Watergate committee — could rally conservatives behind him. But Mr. Thompson instead brought a phlegmatic style to the campaign trail, and his candidacy never took off.

His decision to drop out could potentially help Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who has competed for many of the same voters. Some Republicans suggested that Mr. Huckabee came in second in South Carolina precisely because Mr. Thompson had siphoned off much of his support, permitting Senator John McCain of Arizona to win.

But Mr. Huckabee has moved to scale back his own campaign after his South Carolina showing, and has backed away from plans to campaign heavily in Florida.

Assuming Mr. Huckabee does not reconsider, Mr. Thompson’s withdrawal could therefore be a boon for Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who has aggressively sought to recruit Florida conservatives to his side.

Mr. Thompson had seemed to be a candidate from central casting, with his imposing height, his theatrical growl and a plain-spoken conservatism. Only last summer, he had many Republicans spinning dreams of Ronald Reagan resurrected.

“He has a presidential bearing,” Republican Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said at the time.

He never achieved presidential traction, however. He ruminated for many weeks about whether to run. By the time he entered the race, much of the buzz had dissipated. His speaking style swung between folksy and laconic to the point of sleepy.

He played to loud applause at the National Rifle Association and picked up endorsement of anti-abortion groups. But rival candidates like Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani rushed to refashion themselves as conservatives, changing a number of long-held positions that were more socially moderate.

That caused Mr. Thompson no end of frustration, but he never found a way to persuade Republicans that his bona-fides entitled him to their vote. And he drew considerable criticism for his flagging, flickering energy — some of his walking tours lasted just 10 or 15 minutes, and he often took few questions.

He drew just 1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire (fewer than the number of write-in votes), and finished fifth in Michigan.

Of late, Mr. Thompson cast himself as a country boy who would bring truth to Washington (in fact, he resides across the Potomac River from the capital, in McLean, Va). And in South Carolina, he talked more and more of his Christian faith, attacking gay marriage and abortion. But there, too, he found himself boxed in, as Mr. Huckabee, a Baptist minister, had laid a deeper claim to evangelical Christian voters.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/us/politics/23thompson.html?hp
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What the hell took so long?

Lili

Private Reply to Lili Fuller

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