by Steven Ertelt
January 3, 2008
Des Moines, IA (LifeNews.com) — Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has rebuked reports that he may be leaving the presidential race if he finishes lower than third in Iowa tonight. He said he didn’t know why a staff member of his campaign would spread the rumor that he would vacate the race after a poor showing and endorse John McCain.
“Any speculation as to what I may or may not do is just totally that,” he told CNN’s John Roberts.
“It’s obvious that someone in the campaign thought it was to their advantage to put that out. I have never said that. I have never implied that in public or in private. You should take that for what it’s worth," he added.
“Nobody’s talking about any kind of a scenario past tonight," he told CNN. "I mean you look and see and the whole world changes…you have to analyze the results and go from there.”
Instead, Thompson predicted that the experts would be wrong and that a strong Iowa finish would propel him to his next battle in South Carolina.
"I’m not planning any pessimistic scenario. I think that we’ve got a great opportunity, it’s going to be better than a lot of the so-called experts think," he said.
The rumors, which circled the Internet Thursday, may supress Thompson’s support at the caucuses tonight if enough voters think he’s likely to leave the race.
Thompson has campaigned on a strong pro-life platform — opposing both abortion and embryonic stem cell research — and earned the endorsement of National Right to Life and several pro-life groups.
But GOP officials close to Thompson’s campaign told the news web site Politico on Thursday morning that Iowa is make or break for the former senator.
“Without a solid third-place finish, there’s no point in going on,” a Thompson advisor told Politico with a foreboding defeatist attitude. “It was an honorable race, and he turned out to be a good candidate. The moment had just passed.”
Another Thompson source told Politico there is a "strong likelihood" Thompson would drop out if he doesn’t come in third, or if his third place is significantly behind Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee at 15 percent or less.
That source indicated Thompson could potentially leave the race before the New Hampshire presidential debate this weekend.
Despite the comments, the Thompson campaign issued a press release Wednesday afternoon saying he would participate in the debates.
William Lacy, the campaign manager, told LifeNews.com in an email that they’re raising money for a strong showing in Iowa to "help us get ready for the next big push in South Carolina."
Should Thompson drop out of the race, most political observers believe he would endorse former Senate colleague John McCain — ironic given that McCain may come in third in Iowa and upend Thompson’s campaign.
Should that chain of events occur, it would be a huge boost for the McCain campaign at a time when his numbers are rising again after a disastrous campaign through the middle of 2007.
McCain already has a lead in New Hampshire and a win there combined with a rejuvenated third-place showing in Iowa could give him the momentum he needs going into South Carolina.