A brief statement from the former Tennessee senator reads in its entirety: "Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States.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. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."
Flyer political editor Jackson Baker followed Thompson's last-ditch campaign efforts in Iowa and in South Carolina. Below is an excerpt from Bakers latest first-hand report, to appear in its entirety in this week's Flyer.
' The candidate had been booked for an election-day appearance at the South Carolina Arms Collector Association Gun Show, held at the sprawling Jamil Shrine Center, a big flea-market-style barn in Northwest Columbia, and I decided to check it out .
'Thompson attracted attention as he and the others moved through the vast building, aisle by crowded aisle. He is, after all, a familiar image from his movie and TV roles, and he was frequently asked to provide an autograph or pose for a picture. But he left little curiosity in his wake, as each parted wave of shoppers went right back to ogling and handling the shiny and menacing-looking table goodies.
'Once at least, toward the end of his last circuit, on his way out of the arena, the talk got expressly political. One of the vendors congratulated Thompson on his stout rhetoric defending the Second Amendment rights of gun-bearers and compared him favorably in that regard to rival Huckabee, who was generally conceded to have grabbed off much of the conservative hinterland vote that Thompsons campaign was aiming for.
'"You dont see him here, do you?" the man said, in something of a non-sequitur.
'"Yeah, well, I've been doing this for a long time, a long time before I was in politics," Thompson said. And, after a few more thank-you, thank-you-very-much responses to such remarks, a few more autographs and pictures, he and his retinue were gone, and the huge crowd kept on swarming over firearms as before...
'... In South Carolina, as in Iowa, Thompson had fulminated against left-wing Democrats, upheld gun rights, deplored abortion and gay marriage, inveighed against the burden of taxation, and denounced illegal immigration and Islamo-fascism and Iran, all of which his chosen part called for. Sometimes he did it well, sometimes not so well, as with any touring road show.'Meanwhile, another player in the drama, former governor Huckabee of Arkansas, whose campaign had gotten a head start over Thompson's, was saying all these things and more, but more easily and elegantly and subordinating them to a sunnier outlook that had some progressive populist overtones. Put simply, the former preacher, a winner in Iowa and a contender elsewhere, had managed to upstage the ex-actor .'