Another interesting scene from the McCain victory rally at The Citadel was one concerning Fred Thompson. At about 9:00 p.m., a big screen showing Fox News put up pictures of McCain and Huckabee, side-by-side, with McCain having about a five-percentage-point lead. The crowd cheered. Then Fox cut to another screen, with pictures of Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, showing both men far behind the leaders but with Thompson ahead of Romney, 16 percent to 15 percent. The crowd began cheering, “Go Fred Go! Go Fred Go! Go Fred Go!”
Obviously, McCain supporters wanted to weaken Romney as much as possible going into Florida and beyond. But they also – just like the McCain supporters in New Hampshire I mentioned in my earlier post – really don’t like Romney; dislike of Romney is pretty widespread in rival campaigns. And they like Fred. Last night I talked with Cyndi Mosteller, a strong social conservative who headed the Charleston County Republican Party from 2003 to 2007 and who supports McCain. When I asked about Thompson, she said. “He was the most anticipated candidate that I have ever seen. So many people on the ground were ready to run the ball for him, and they showed up in strength, but he didn’t really show up in strength. I think that probably Thompson is more of a private person. I don’t really think he’s cut out for the public run required of public office. I think it’s almost a personality thing; it’s certainly not an ideological thing. It’s like the public energy and the will to run are a little bit lacking there.” Talk to other South Carolina conservatives, no matter who they supported, and you’ll hear similar opinions. Thompson had a huge opportunity here.