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.
Though Thompson was trumpeted as the potential second coming of Republican hero former President Reagan, his presidential exploratory committee went through several staffing shuffles and reports of internal power struggles.
Once he announced and joined the campaign formally, he stepped into several gaffes and was routinely questioned for his lack of "fire in the belly." Thompson — who describes himself as "laid-back" — criticized the campaign process and showed particular disdain for debates, which he likened to "monkey shows."
The 65-year-old maintained a lighter campaign schedule than most of the top-tier candidates, but beefed up his schedule toward the final weeks.
"He understands that the way he chose to approach it wasn't being accepted from the majority of Republican primary voters, for whatever reason. I think it was important to him that he did this in the way he wanted to do it,"Galen said.
He often flew home on weekends to see his young family in Virginia. Thompson often bragged that he was not "eat up by ambition." He acknowledged many times he "may not be everyone's cup of tea."
Even before he left the race Thompson made it clear he would not be terribly disappointed with a loss.
"I can live, I will be happy either way, you decide. I'm not even trying to say that I'm better than everybody else. … I am just saying that what you see is what you get. I'm doing it my way — just like I have done everything else in my life," Thompson said on the campaign trail in Sioux City in November.
One of Thompson's strongest moments came toward the end of his campaign at the Jan. 10 South Carolina GOP debate in Myrtle Beach. Thompson declared this election was a "battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and its future."
He delivered a strong performance, where he produced a litany of accusations against then-surging front-runner former Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"He would be a Christian leader, but he would also bring about liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies … so much for federalism. So much for states' rights. So much for individual rights. That's not the model of the Reagan coalition, that's the model of the Democratic Party," Thompson said at the debate.
Thompson doggedly pursued the former Arkansas governor in the days leading up to the South Carolina primary, attacking him for receiving a state endorsement from the National Education Association and for once supporting a national smoking ban. Thompson also called moral foul on a pro-Huckabee group, whom he blamed for spreading false information about his record through push-polling and negative literature.
"This is not a legitimate debate of the issues. I confronted him man to man, person to person at the debates with regard to the issues, this is the response I get, anonymous stuff," Thompson said in response to the negative push-polling that he suspected came from Huckabee supporters.