Fred Thompson Drops Presidential Bid

It's curtains for the presidential campaign of Fred Thompson, whose campaign failed to capitalize on early momentum and never won any presidential contests.

"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States," read a statement that the former Tennessee senator released this afternoon.

"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."

The former lawyer and actor once seemed a likely top-tier candidate, but he failed to capitalize on a jumbled Republican field and never reached the momentum many predicted when talk of his joining the race began late in the spring.

According to Senior Adviser Rich Galen, it was as early as Saturday midday when Thompson acknowledged that his campaign "might well be drawing to an end," as disappointing reports from polling centers starting trickling in.

"When Fred Thompson said that he wasn't driven to win, that also means that he wasn't going to fall off the Wilson bridge, if he lost ,"Galen told ABC News. "It just didn't work out. I think he probably is fully at ease with this."

The former Tennessee senator called his friend and '08 rival Sen. John McCain Tuesday to let him know his was dropping out.

"Fred Thompson ran an honorable campaign and I consider him a close friend," McCain told reporters after Thompson's announcement hit the news. "I wish him and his family the best."

After narrowly edging out McCain for third place in Iowa, Thompson readied for a full-scale battle in South Carolina. It was in the Palmetto State where Thompson declared he was making "his stand" — and spent the last two weeks campaigning, skipping the New Hampshire and Michigan primaries, where he finished seventh and fifth, respectively.

It was clear it would be do or die in South Carolina for the Thompson campaign when manager Bill Lacy moved a dozen staffers to Columbia to work the state and cut the salaries of those who remained at McLean, Va., headquarters.

Thompson hoped a win in South Carolina would be his "firewall" — part of his strategy to gain momentum in Southern states. Two days before the primaries, the campaign bought airtime on multiple television stations statewide to simultaneously air its latest commercial.

Stay Strong

Thompson called South Carolina his "home territory," a state where citizens didn't think he "talked funny" and where they knew how to cook green beans "not crunchy."

However the night McCain won the South Carolina primary, a Thompson campaign spokesman told ABC News the campaign's status was "fluid" and would evaluate its situation based on final results.

In a speech Saturday night before the final results were known, he thanked his supporters and his family, and suggested his candidacy had pushed the Republican Party to evaluate itself.

"Because of your efforts and because of our working together our party is looking in the mirror," Thompson told supporters in Columbia, S.C.

"My friends we will always be bound by a close bond. … It's never been about me, it's never been about you, it's about our country," Thompson told the crowd, saying "Stay Strong!" as he exited the stage.

Announced Candidacy on 'Leno'

The last GOP candidate to jump into the race, Thompson announced his candidacy on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and kicked off his campaign in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 6 after a summer of missteps.

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