Fred Thompson Quitting – Or Surging?

Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen of The Politico have a story entitled, “Fred Thompson may drop out, back McCain.”

Fred Thompson Quitting to Back McCain Several Republican officials close to Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign said they expect the candidate will drop out of the race within days if he finishes poorly in Thursday’s Iowa caucus.

Thompson’s campaign, which last spring and summer was generating fevered anticipation in the media and with some Republican activists, has never ignited nationally, and there are no signs of a late spark happening here in Iowa, where even a third-place finish is far from assured.

This strikes me as right and comports with predictions I’ve made in recent weeks. Not only does Thompson’s campaign appear to be faltering, he doesn’t strike me as a bitter ender. And, certainly, McCain is the guy he’s most likely to endorse.

Amusingly, however, NRO’s Peter Robinson reports a “Late-Breaking Surge for Thompson.”

The latest news from Iowa? According to Zogby’s latest—and I quote: “Sen. Fred Thompson…has seen a late-breaking surge.”

It should be noted that Thompson’s “surge” is well within the margin of error. This doesn’t stop speculation that it is based on the good people of Iowa finally recognizing what a gosh darned good fella Thompson is.

The Iowa Caucuses are sufficiently unpredictable that a third place finish by Thompson — or, heck, Ron Paul — wouldn’t surprise me. I do think, however, that if Thompson doesn’t make a respectable showing in Iowa or New Hampshire, he’ll call it quits and back McCain. Obviously, for McCain’s sake, it would be preferable if it happened before New Hampshire but, given that only five days separates the two contests, there’s not much incentive for Thompson to do that.

Via Memeorandum

UPDATE: Fred Thompson denies this rumor, calling it “absolutely made up out of whole cloth” and speculating that a rival campaign had planted the rumor. Of course, what else is he going to say?

UPDATE: Thompson was interviewed by Tim Russert on this topic today. Here’s the video:

Josh Marshall‘s assessment: “Fred Thompson about as enthusiastic about saying he’s staying in the race as he has been about running his campaign …” Actually, though, it strikes me as a perfectly solid answer to the question — albeit a bit too honest about the legitimate possibility that he’ll get “shellacked” and have to reassess things. Whether one finds that candor refreshing or a sign of apathy likely depends one one’s predisposition towards Thompson.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave P says:

    Fred Thompson is not quitting. This is hogwash and has been addressed. He is surging right now if you talk to the people on the ground in Iowa. I sure wish that the media would report the news instead of making things up!

  2. Patrick T McGuire says:

    I find it downright comical to read about Fred’s demise. First it was his late entry into the race. Then it was his lack of energy. Now it’s all about his poor showing in the polls.

    In case y’all have forgotten, we still have 10 months until the election. This race reminds me of the old tortoise and hare fable. While the other candidates are racing to be at the front of the pack, Fred keeps on plodding along right behind them.

    Not long ago, it was all about Guiliani who had a commanding lead in the polls. Anybody heard anything about him lately? Then it was Mitt, who is in a I-am-more-religious-than-you battle with Huckabee who in turn has surged only to fall back again. Now it’s McCain being hailed as the comeback kid. Only he won’t survive scrutiny of his record and someone else will challenge him for the lead.

    As the months go by, the current leaders of the pack will burn themselves out and start looking to make partnership deals with each other just to stay alive in this race. In the meantime, Fred will be moving up to reach the finish ahead of the others.

    When Fred first appeared on Fox News with Chris Wallace, back around March of last year I believe, I predicted then that he would be our next president. I don’t see anything now that would make me change that prediction.

  3. Oink says:

    Your “predictions” Mr. Joyner? “Insiders close to the campaign?” Who are they? And do you use a crystal ball or tea leaves?

    Just go ahead and ignore John Zogby and actual polling numbers.

    Text book dirty politics at work.

  4. Funny–I was unaware that Thompson had Ronulan-type supporters as well…

    As far as the “surge” is concerned, he went from 8% in the poll to 10% to 12%. That ain’t exactly the stuff of legend.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    In case y’all have forgotten, we still have 10 months until the election. This race reminds me of the old tortoise and hare fable. While the other candidates are racing to be at the front of the pack, Fred keeps on plodding along right behind them.

    Not long ago, it was all about Guiliani who had a commanding lead in the polls. Anybody heard anything about him lately? Then it was Mitt, who is in a I-am-more-religious-than-you battle with Huckabee who in turn has surged only to fall back again. Now it’s McCain being hailed as the comeback kid. Only he won’t survive scrutiny of his record and someone else will challenge him for the lead.

    As the months go by, the current leaders of the pack will burn themselves out and start looking to make partnership deals with each other just to stay alive in this race. In the meantime, Fred will be moving up to reach the finish ahead of the others.

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that, for the most part, the race for the Republican nomination will be over after February 5, due to the fact that most Republican primaries are winner-take-all. So the idea that Fred can “plod along” in the 10 months between now and November doesn’t really make much sense.

  6. MarkD says:

    Fred was never interested in the Job anyway. His wife is the one with aspirations. Fred’s just old and tired and ready for that eternal nap.

  7. James Joyner says:

    In case y’all have forgotten, we still have 10 months until the election.

    But not until the nomination. Iowa votes TODAY. New Hampshire votes FIVE DAYS from now.

  8. markm says:

    It’d be a shame if he dropped out. In my opinion he’s the only guy out there on either side with real implementable policy and he seems genuine, not a panderer to the polls. Being the most powerful man in the world does not seem to be his motivation. I dig that, nice for a change.

  9. Chip says:

    Oh really? How does this “strike you as right” Jimmy?

    No one with an ounce of reason would pretend to believe a candidate who is this strongly supported would leave the race over the results of the first blue state, NO ONE.

    Therefore, the only possible explanation for you to feign agreement with a flagrant low-life attempt to intentionally subvert the election process of the American people is to further your own pathetic political agenda.

    I’ve also heard something recently Jimmy. A source within Politico suggests that Martin and Allen will be having the last stage of their lobotomy’s finally completed and that you will be at the same hospital to observe if theirs went as well as yours…How does THAT “strike you as right” Jimmy??

    This sounds perfectly in line with all of your “thinking” to me.

  10. Michael says:

    No one with an ounce of reason would pretend to believe a candidate who is this strongly supported would leave the race over the results of the first blue state, NO ONE.

    Gephardt.

  11. Brian says:

    Unless I missed a poll, the most optimistic “respectable finish” Thompson could be hoping for in IA is distant third. And in New Hampshire … please. He’s locked in a statistical dead heat with Duncan Hunter.

    Whether or not that means he is preparing to bail out, or who he would endorse if he did is beyond me. But that rumor is certainly easy to believe given that he hasn’t seemed like he even wanted to be in the race to begin with.

  12. FireWolf says:

    Unless I missed a poll, the most optimistic “respectable finish” Thompson could be hoping for in IA is distant third. And in New Hampshire … please. He’s locked in a statistical dead heat with Duncan Hunter.

    Whether or not that means he is preparing to bail out, or who he would endorse if he did is beyond me. But that rumor is certainly easy to believe given that he hasn’t seemed like he even wanted to be in the race to begin with.

    I agree Brian, looking at Fred’s poll stats, it seems that even if he marched right out in front of the cameras at the release of this “rumor”/leak, the denial has some merit and truth to the speculation.

    As for playing VP with McCain, Gov. Pawlenty of Minnesota is still out pandering for McCain, it would seem to me that McCain already has a VP in mind.

    We shall see.

  13. Bruce Moomaw says:

    I don’t think Thompson ever wanted to run. I think his obnoxious wife nagged him into it.