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January 3, 2008

Fred Says Relax, He Won't Do It

The Politico predicts that Fred will drop out of the race if he doesn't come up with a strong showing in Iowa this evening. Fred replies that it's just a nasty rumor to discredit him in upcoming states:

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 reality—combined with a fundraising drought—left well-connected friends and advisers of Thompson Wednesday evening predicting that he will pull the plug on hype and hope before the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary.

Fred replied:

"That is absolutely made up out of whole cloth," said the former U.S. Senator from Tennessee.

Thompson said a rival campaign was likely the source of that rumor. "Can you imagine such a thing in politics?" he asked.

Two items have sparked these rumors. First, the surprise announcement that Thompson needed a blogburst to run ads in Iowa exposed the campaign's bare warchest. They need a strong finish in Iowa to convince donors to keep the flow of money up to a high enough level to buy ad time in South Carolina, where Fred has more strength. Second, Fred Thompson himself oddly raised expectations by saying he needed a second-place finish in tonight's caucuses, a scenario that seems rather fantastic. A strong third would help, but not if the candidate himself believes he needs to place second or first.

However, the rumors are most likely false. In this primary race, almost everyone should be able to make it to February 5th, when 23 states will go all at once. Why drop out within just a few weeks of the Super Tuesday primaries, where a couple of states could keep the candidacy viable? No one candidate has enough draft to force anyone else out.

In this case, Fred has a shot at South Carolina, at least for a second-place finish. He could also do well in Florida, although that seems less likely at the moment. He has no reason to bail out of the race before then, and the next week will be the Super Tuesday primaries. Unless he really runs completely out of cash, he has no compelling reason to withdraw.

So the story probably reflects nothing but rumor and speculation, although it's hard to understand why competing campaigns would bother with directing any of it towards Thompson. At least for now, he isn't anyone's bete noir. It looks more like the uncontrollable urge to commit punditry on the eve of the first real test of the candidates. (via Rick Moran)


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