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Thompson abandons White House bid

  • Story Highlights
  • Former Sen. Fred Thompson finished third in South Carolina on Saturday
  • Thompson entered race long after GOP rivals announced their candidacies
  • Former senator from Tennessee also is known for acting career
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(CNN) -- Former Sen. Fred Thompson on Tuesday ended his run for the presidency, coming off the heels of a disappointing third-place finish in South Carolina's GOP primary and heading into the showdown state of Florida next week.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee has dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States," Thompson said in a statement.

"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."

Thompson entered the race in September, long after his Republican rivals had announced their candidacies and began raising money. His campaigning style was criticized as lackluster, and he was never able to capitalize on the anticipation supporters had built before he announced that he was getting into the race.

Thompson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994 and represented Tennessee for eight years.

Short of cash and sinking in national polls, Thompson had staked his hopes on South Carolina, where a strong showing could have reinvigorated his flagging campaign. Video Watch how Thompson's withdrawal could affect the race »

Thompson played to the voters as a staunch conservative and a son of the South. While he did draw some evangelical voters from one-time Baptist preacher and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, it wasn't enough to pull him into contention for the nomination.

He finished with 16 percent of the vote. Sen. John McCain won Saturday's contest with 33 percent, followed by Huckabee with 30 percent.

"He's really been good lately, but it's too late," CNN analyst Bill Bennett said of Thompson after South Carolina returns started to come in. "If you're a Southern conservative and you can't make it in South Carolina, it's over."

Earlier, Thompson finished third in Iowa, fifth in Michigan and Nevada, sixth in New Hampshire and a distant second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Wyoming.

Thompson teased Republicans all last summer after forming a fundraising committee for a possible presidential campaign on June 1.

When he announced in September that he was formally entering the race, it was well after the other Republicans had launched their campaigns, and analysts said the late entry may have hurt him.

Thompson is an actor best known for his role as District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's "Law & Order."


Five candidates remain in the Republican race -- McCain, Huckabee, Romney, Rep. Ron Ron Paul of Texas and former New York Mayor Rudy Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani has largely skipped the early voting states to focus on the January 29 primary in Florida and the delegate-rich races in the "Super Tuesday" primaries February 5. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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