Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fred Thompson Drops Out of Presidential Race

Fox News - Fred Thompson dropped his presidential bid Tuesday, after the former Tennessee senator and actor finished third in the South Carolina primary and was unable to score a victory in any of the early primaries or caucuses.

“Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States.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

The GOP candidate has begun calling friends, family members and supporters to tell them he’s ended his campaign, four months after he formally announced his White House bid. The momentum behind his delayed entrance into the race steadily diminished as his GOP rivals racked up victories in early test states.

Poll averages showed he went from second place nationally in early September to fifth this week.

Thompson left Nashville Tuesday afternoon for McLean, Va., where he is expected to make the announcement about his campaign as early as Tuesday night.

Aides said Thompson sent an e-mail Monday saying he was still undecided about whether to stay in the race — but with no plans to campaign in Florida, which holds its primary Jan. 29, or to participate in a Republican debate Thursday, his staffers expected him to withdraw.

Thompson seemed on the verge of bowing out Saturday during his post-election address in Columbia, S.C., after it became evident he would not finish better than third in South Carolina.

Telling his supporters to “stand strong,” he said, “We will always be bound by a close bond, because we have traveled a very special road together for a very special purpose. You know, it’s never been about me. It’s never even been about you. It’s been about our country and the future of our country … And because of your efforts and because of our working together, our party is being required to look itself in the mirror, decide where it’s going, decide who it is.”

Fielding criticism along the way that he was lazy and generally disinterested, Thompson had prided himself as a consistent conservative in Ronald Reagan’s image, and stepped up that assertion in the days preceding the vote in South Carolina, where he said he drew “a line in the sand” for his campaign.

His departure only nominally thins the field in the GOP race, where there is no breakaway frontrunner. John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney have each won at least one major early state contest, and Rudy Giuliani has dug deep into Florida, fighting hard to prosper in that state’s primary.

Thompson did not endorse anybody in his statement Tuesday.

As for Thompson’s future, there has been speculation he could be angling for vice president.

Thompson senior adviser Rich Galen told FOX News Radio Monday “It may well be that Thompson is a vice presidential candidate, carrying the message to fill whatever hole there may be in the conservative credentials of whoever the nominee is.”