January 22, 2008

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Fred Thompson Quits Presidential Race (AP, 1/22/08)

"Today, I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States.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," Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson's fate was sealed last Saturday in the South Carolina primary, when he finished third in a state that he had said he needed to win.


Much as folks would like politics to be about people, presidential campaigns are pretty much slaves to narrative and theory. The premise of the Thompson candidacy was that he was a John McCain who wasn't in trouble with movement conservatives and would be a perfect default alternative to the two liberals--Giuliani and Romney. But, in practice, IA goes to the top pick of Evangelicals and NH, barring a genuine implosion, was going to stay loyal to Maverick and, at any rate, would not vote for a Southerner. Mr. Thompson got in the race too late to win the organization dependent IA caucuses, ceding the role of "conservative option" to Mike Huckabee. Mitt Romney foolishly tried competing in IA, which he had no chance of winning, making himself easy pickin's for senator McCain in NH, despite being a MA pol. And Rudy wisely opted not to bother running at all.

The result was that the race was down to two conservative candidates by the time it got to SC and opportunity had passed Mr. Thompson by. He deserves great credit for running such a weighty campaign in terms of ideas and proposals. But he, unfortunately, demonstrates once again that if you want to make a serious run you have to make a full-on commitment to the race years in advance. He happens to be too normal to do that. So, in effect, the qualities that would have made him a good president--mental balance, seriousness, placid temperament--left him unqualified to be the nominee of a major party. There's no shame in that and there ought to be few regrets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2008 4:18 PM
Comments

What do you think of the idea that Rudy is going to win Fla? I think it's nuts. I think he's going to do about as well as Al Smith. But there are a lot of New Yorkers living down there.

Posted by: Bryan at January 22, 2008 5:19 PM

It is the result of the system's structure. Running for national office in a two party system (which rises from winner take all) when the two party's are collections of state parties means that the state parties have to be worked on well in advance, and that means starting the planning after the previous election.

If you want the candidate with the serious ideas, that candidate has to have the ambition to be out there early if he or she wants to get enough worms to either win, or have the ideas accepted by the other candidates as the issues.

It's a structural thing.

Posted by: Mikey at January 22, 2008 5:47 PM

Rudy's done. He won't break the top 3.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2008 7:26 PM

FredHeads will pivot to Mittens, making it all the more fun.

Posted by: ghostcat at January 22, 2008 8:11 PM

Folks looking for a McCain-like alternative to Rudy/Mitt will just turn back to McCain himself. Fred's candidacy required a Maverick collapse.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2008 10:41 PM

ghost, What else can we do?

Posted by: erp at January 22, 2008 11:16 PM

erp -

If I were a devout FredHead, I'd probably pivot to Mittens.

As it happens, I'm a Lesser McCainiac.

Posted by: ghostcat at January 23, 2008 12:25 AM

I wonder if anyone has asked McCain his opinion on putting Jeff Flake on the House Appropriations Committee. I wouild expect that McCain wouldn't want to butt into House business, but he does pride himself on his anti-pork credentials, and Flake is a fellow Arizonian, so I'll bet he would endorse it. It is an inside baseball thing, but if Boehner doesn't do it, he looks as bad as Murtha to the economic conservatives.

Plus, it is time for the leadership in Washington to stop being so prickly about what the "people" know about their business. Boehner will never be Speaker if GOP porkers like Stevens, Lott, Jerry Lewis, Doolittle, and Cochran are left sling to their slop.

Posted by: ratbert at January 23, 2008 8:47 AM
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