Fred Thompson Drops Out of Debate, Quitting Race?

Jonathan Garthwaite passes on word that, “Fox News is reporting that Fred Thompson has told Fox he will not be participating in Thursday’s debate and may make an announcement about his candidacy soon.”

Fred Thompson Drops Out of Debate, Quitting Race? Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson's disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary could signal the end of his candidacy.
Photo Credit: By Alex C. Hicks Jr. -- Associated Press WaPo’s Michael D. Shear, on a story buried on page A08, asks, “Will Thompson Roll the Closing Credits?”

As the men competing for the GOP nomination head back to Florida before the state’s primary on Jan. 29, it appears that Thompson will not be going with them. After he finished well behind in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, there were indications that Thompson could drop out as early as today. His campaign has yet to announce a schedule of Florida campaign stops.

Thompson had said repeatedly that he needed a strong finish in South Carolina to stay in the race. He failed, ending up with 16 percent of the vote, behind Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and just a point ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

In an election-night speech to supporters in Columbia, the normally laid-back Thompson thundered for 10 minutes about the less obvious accomplishments of his run for the presidency in what sounded much like a valedictory. “We will always be bound by a close bond because we have traveled a very special road together for a very special purpose,” he told supporters. “We’ll always stand strong together . . . we’ll always stand strong together, and I can’t thank you enough for that.”


“His rivals would do more in a day than Fred would do in a month,” said one disaffected Thompson insider. “He created the perception, fairly or not, that he was just going through the motions.”

“Thompson never filled those huge shoes from last summer’s polls, but he did manage to score well in the debates and get a respectful vote in South Carolina,” said Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.

Thompson was unable to unite the party’s right wing around his candidacy. His refusal to support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and questions about his lobbying for an abortion rights group raised questions for social conservatives. And his laid-back style and several early flubs on the campaign trail made others question his chances against an energized Democrat.

All that shut off the fundraising spigot for Thompson, who quickly ran out of money. After an initial stab at competing in Iowa and New Hampshire, he essentially dropped out of those contests and focused on winning the first state primary in his native South.

I suppose Thompson could hang on hoping for a Florida comeback. But why? He’s currently ranked a distant fifth in the polls there and his numbers are trending down.

The Spoof speculates that he’ll instead drop out and “play the son of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo in next year’s Rambo V: Rambo vs Alien and Predator, and maybe Jaws.” Most likely, he’ll hope for a vice presidential bid.

UPDATE: Fred Thompson Quits Presidential Run – Officially

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DL says:

    Even George Washington knew when it was time to call it quits. Fred was a valiant old fashioned soldier in a post -modern war.

  2. davod says:

    He is the most truthful speaker and has the most conservative policies on the Republic circuit. He needs to stay in to keep these people honest.

    If he pulls out now I will think he was a stalking horse for McCain.

  3. JB says:

    Don’t be surprised if Grampa Fred endorses Romney. He has been a willing tool for the GOP establishment to derail the Huckabee campaign. If Fred hadn’t been on the ballot, promoted ad nauseum by the conservative media in the week before the S.C. primary, Huck would have won S.C. His momentum would have carried him into Florida and he would have swept the South. But with Huck crippled, my money is on Fred withdrawing and essentially giving Romney the head-to-head match-up/showdown he wants vs. McCain in Florida. With Fred out of the race, Romney will win Florida, and he will move on to capture the GOP nomination. You heard it here first.

  4. John Lutton says:

    Its sad that many seek a “Hollywood” type with no flaws to represent their idea of a candidate. Fred is the only conservative on the whole list, the only true Republican If the “social” Conservatives want their idea of reform and change let them vote Democrat. Some one has to stand for what is just, right and also holy!

  5. R. Alex says:

    Most likely, he’ll hope for a vice presidential bid.

    I suspect not. He was bored as a senator and wasn’t motivated by a strong desire to be president. I’m not sure what he’d gain by being VP except time away from his kids.

  6. cprince says:

    Fred is not now, nor has he ever been a true conservative. He has been on TV, and that’s the only reason his campaign got off the ground.

    No candidate, Fred included, (except for Romney) is willing to put himself out there with actual plans, ideas, and measures to deal with the real issues of the day.

    Personally, I’ll be biting my nails to see who he endorses. If it’s McCain, it’s over for Romney in Florida (unless Huck withdraws too, which I doubt). If McCain wins Florida, he wins the nomination, that much is pretty obvious.

    In a McCain-Obama matchup, I vote for Obama. McCain-Hillary, I abstain. What’s the difference?

  7. davod says:

    “No candidate, Fred included, (except for Romney) is willing to put himself out there with actual plans, ideas, and measures to deal with the real issues of the day.”

    You obviously never took the time to listen to Thompson, or review his policy positions on his website.