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Fred, This Is My Last Goodbye

Columbia, SC

I'm waiting outside the Lizard's Thicket restaurant for Fred Thompson with Congressman Steve King -- a hearty Thompson booster -- and South Carolina Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, who, in a move akin to climbing from a life raft onto the Titanic, endorsed Thompson yesterday. King introduces himself to Eckstrom, exclaiming, "I heard you were one of our two or three most influential endorsements!" Eckstrom replies dryly, "No, I was one of the two or three still available." It tells you something about the politics of political endorsements: There are those who wait till the last minute in order to cast in with the winner, and then there are those who wait till the last minute to see who will need them the most.

Inside Lizard's Thicket, in front of a big menu board advertising country fried apples and catfish, Thompson does a media avail that, if you close your eyes to the cameras and boom mikes, sounds more like a patriarch's dying hours than a campaign event. How is the mood on the bus? someone asks. "The feel is great, mainly because I have Jeri and my kids with me," he says. "We'll see what comes." I'm surrounded by family, I am at peace. "The long national nightmare is over," says one reporter, as Fred turns away.

We've all been gnashing our teeth about how we mis-called Hillary's win in New Hampshire -- how could the media have been so wrong?!?!?, etc., etc. This recent mis-step obscures the fact that Fred was probably the biggest mis-call of the year. Let's dig out a few old quotes:

"The more [Fred] talks, the more likable and presidential he appears. ... It's unlikely his ratings will drop anytime soon." -- Jonah Goldberg, June 1

"Fred Thompson knows what he is doing and he will be formidable." -- Bill Kristol, June 3

"Fred Thompson at the dinner table confirmed the widespread perception inside the party of his potential to be an extraordinary candidate." -- Bob Novak, June 10

"When Fred Thompsonmakes his long-delayed entrance into the Republican presidential race, he will not tiptoe quietly." -- David Broder, August 16

Woops! I seem to recall my colleague Jon Chait being a Thompson fear-mongerer on the Plank this summer, but unfortunately I can't taunt him with the hard evidence. 

-- Eve Fairbanks