Thompson quits presidential race


Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson speaks to supporters in Seneca, S.C. last week.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 11:15 p.m.

NAPLES - Republican Fred Thompson quit the race for the White House on Tuesday after a string of poor finishes in early primary and caucus states.

"Today, I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States.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,'' the former Tennessee senator said in a brief 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.

In the statement, Thompson did not say whether he would endorse any of his former rivals.

Thompson placed third in Iowa and South Carolina, two states seemingly in line with his right-leaning pitch and laid-back style, and fared even worse in the four other states that have held contests thus far. Money already tight, he ran out of it altogether as the losses piled up.

Despite initial impressions that Thompson could garner strong conservative support, it never materialized. He never won backing from more than one in five conservatives in any of the earliest primaries and caucuses, including the 19 percent who exit polls for The Associated Press and television networks showed supported him in South Carolina. His showings were similarly weak with white born-again and evangelical Christians.

Thompson's withdrawal capped a turbulent 10 months that saw him go from hot to not in short order.

He began toying with a presidential run last March, emboldened by a fluid Republican nomination fight and a restive conservative GOP base. He also was charmed by resounding calls for him to get into the race - and his meteoric springtime rise to the top of national and state polls.

Thompson formally announced his bid in early September, but hit a rocky patch from the get-go. He skipped a Republican debate in New Hampshire, annoying some in the state, to announce his candidacy on NBC's "Tonight Show'' with Jay Leno.

His easygoing style and reputation for laziness translated into a light campaign schedule that raised questions about his desire to be president.

Thompson earned positive reviews for a series of debate performances last fall.

In April of last year, Thompson disclosed that he was diagnosed in 2004 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a highly treatable form of cancer.

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