Thompson withdraws from presidential race
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Fred Thompson became the latest Tennessee Republican who couldn’t translate statewide support into national success when he withdrew from the presidential race on Tuesday.
Supporters blamed the former Tennessee senator’s late start and a crowded field for the failed bid. Others said Republican primary voters misinterpreted his laid-back demeanor for lack of conviction.
“I’m disappointed that it came to this,” said state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. “I think Fred would have made a great president.”
Ramsey, a Blountville Repub-lican who had campaigned for Thompson in several states, said he’s still hoping Thompson will be considered as a running mate.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a current presidential candidate whom Thompson supported in the 2000 primaries, was among those calling for George W. Bush to consider Thompson as his vice presidential candidate.
Thompson did not indicate in a brief written statement whether he would endorse any of the remaining Republicans in the race.
Thompson’s campaign followed unsuccessful bids for the presidency by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker in 1980 and by Sen. Lamar Alexander in 1996 and 2000. Baker was Thompson’s political mentor while Alexander is a fellow protege.
Alexander congratulated Thompson for “a valiant, purposeful effort.” Baker could not be reached through a spokesman.
Bill Frist, another former Senate majority leader, abandoned a widely expected presidential bid last year. Frist said he ecognized that his close affiliation with the unpopular Bush administration made a presidential run unlikely to succeed.
The three, with Thompson, rank among the most popular modern-day politicians in Tennessee.
But their home state appeal never paid off on the national stage.
State Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, said Thompson is the first presidential candidate to whom he ever reached his contribution maximum.
“I thought he could have brought some common sense to government,” Burchett said. “But with a field as crowded as that was, you really have to say things that are just outrageous to get noticed.
“And that’s just not his style.”
State Sen. Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican who had campaigned for Thompson in Iowa, said Thompson was doing well in attracting independents toward the end of the campaign, but it wasn’t enough.
“I think his message was beginning to get through, but it was so late,” he said. “Once people tag on to a candidate it’s hard to peel them off.”
Tennessee has produced three presidents, but none since the mid-19th century. Al Gore won the Democratic nomination in 2000 and the popular vote, but lost the electoral college count to George W. Bush.
Published in The Messenger 1.23.08