What happened
Fred Thompson withdrew from the Republican presidential race, days after coming in third place in South Carolina, a state he had earlier hoped to win. Thompson's late-starting campaign never gained traction despite initial excitement and favorable press. The actor and former senator instead earned a reputation as a lazy campaigner whose heart wasn’t in the race. “Fred was still playing Hamlet when he launched, and he took three months to limber up,“ said an unidentified friend and collaborator. ”He actually enjoyed it at the end, but it was too late.” (Politico.com)
What the commentators said
Thompson’s departure isn’t much of a surprise, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online’s The Corner blog. In fact, “I’m still mystified at why he got into the race in the first place.” He never really came up with a real “rationale for his candidacy,” and once on the trail he was a “very unhappy warrior” who never showed much energy or “appetite” for the “indignities of campaigning.”
Hold on, “he was NOT lazy,” said Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic. In fact, his “command of policy equaled or exceeded that of his rivals,” and he even had a “plausible enough” strategy to win the nomination. But his campaign staff was “poorly managed” and prone to back-biting, and the persistent questions about whether “his heart was in the race” hindered his fundraising.
Not lazy? Are you kidding? said Lloyd Garver in The Huffington Post. He was “the Perry Como of candidates, or the Rip van Winkle.” As to why he ran, perhaps acting work was hard to find in the Hollywood writers’ strike. So maybe now that he’s done using “American politics as his unemployment office,” he’ll go back to work on your TV set—“something like, Law & Order: Compulsive Candidates Unit.”
Well, at least the pundits got something right this race, said John Dickerson in Slate. The “big rap” against Thompson before he entered the race was that he wouldn’t campaign hard. And sure enough, it wouldn’t have surprised people if he’d shown up at his few scheduled campaign events “in sweat pants.” So if nothing else, Thompson’s failure to launch is a belated “victory for conventional wisdom”: “You must show an interest in running for the most powerful office in the world to gain that office.”