Thompson’s supporters could influence the outcome of GOP race

The road to the 2008 presidential election is becoming extremely competitive and already the strongest of the bunch are beginning to drop like flies. One of the latest victims is Fred Thompson who recently withdrew from the Republican presidential race on January 22 after a third-place finish in South Carolina primary.

Thompson had high hopes of winning South Carolina’s vote even with his previous track record of hot and cold finishes early on, but he has accepted his fate and bowed out humbly.

“I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort,” he said in a statement according to The New York Times. “Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people,” he added, referring to his wife.

Thompson, a television actor and former counsel to the Watergate committee, entered the campaign hoping to make major changes because many conservative Republicans were disappointed with their choices. Fans encouraged him to enter the race, but his popularity has fallen short of many expectations.

Thompson’s advisors say he will not be endorsing any of his former competitors but according to The New York Times, he could potentially help former rival and Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, since many of their supporters have similar conservative values. Huckabee on the other hand, blames his finishing second in South Carolina on Thompson with the belief that, had he received the support of Thompson voters, he would have finished ahead of winner Senator John McCain of Arizona.

“The votes that he took essentially were votes that I would have most likely had, according to the exit polls and every other analysis,” Huckabee said in the article. With the withdrawal of Thompson other hopefuls such as Mitt Romney of Massachusetts hope to pull Thompson supporters to their side.
Recently Huckabee has decided not to do much campaigning in Florida which may be poor judgment on his part as he gives rivals such as Romney a chance to grasp the support of conservatives. One can only wonder why Huckabee has made this choice; it could be overconfidence on his part.

In the meantime Romney is wasting no time with the recent events that have taken place. He hopes with the withdrawal of Thompson, he can swing those supporters to his side.

“Throughout this campaign, Fred Thompson brought a laudable focus to the challenges confronting our country and the solutions necessary to meet them,” said Romney according to the article. “He stood for strong conservative ideas and believed strongly in the need to keep our conservative coalition together.”

Although McCain has accomplished such a big victory in South Carolina, his celebration may be short-lived. As one can see, Thompson supporters are likely to swing to any one of his competitors, influencing an already tight race.