Fred Thompson toyed with the media and won himself about 10 minutes of free and unfiltered national television airtime. The former Tennessee senator is on pace to finish a distant third or fourth place in South Carolina and his campaign hinted to the media that he might drop out on the spot (and possibly endorse old friend John McCain) when he addressed his supporters just before 8:00. But in an unusually chipper speech, Thompson made no reference to his poor showing or to his immediate future plans. “Stand strong!” he chanted to supporters at the end of his address.
Still, it’s impossible to imagine anyone taking Thompson seriously if he opts to press ahead. He bypassed all of the early primaries and caucuses (save for a half-hearted effort in Iowa) and had been promising to make a breakthrough in South Carolina, where he devoted most of his time and money. But he has finished in the middle of the pack. That ensures that he won’t be much of a factor in Florida, the next test, or on February 5, when about two dozen states will head to the polls.
Fred Thompson may not have said it tonight, but his campaign is probably over now.