Thompson jumps ahead to South Carolina

January 8, 2008 11:09:48 AM PST
ABC News' Christine Byun Reports: While all other campaigns are huddled in New Hampshire, Republican candidate Fred Thompson got a much-needed head start in the battle for South Carolina. "Everyone is in New Hampshire ? [we're] not playing up there," Thompson told a crowd of about 100 people at a diner in Greenville, S.C. "Still got snow banks six feet high there and we're down here in South Carolina, so I ask you who's the smartest one?"

For the former Tennessee senator, the upcoming January 19th primary will be crucial. A senior campaign advisor says they will have to win South Carolina, or come in a very "strong" second, to continue his bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Thompson's campaign will focus all its efforts in the Palmetto State for the next week and a half. Thompson's wife, Jeri, is also campaigning today throughout the state.

At his morning event, he played up his Southern roots, joking "people can understand what I'm saying down here." Thompson ? who once had enjoyed an edge in South Carolina ? munched on a sausage biscuit while speaking of his humble beginnings as a small-town boy from Tennessee, whose "daddy" worked for those candidates' who speak of growing up with "poor daddies."

A father of two young children, Thompson mentioned his "two latest, greatest blessings" and how "somewhere, [late South Carolina Senator] Strom Thurmond is looking down smiling."

Thompson continued to tout his message of "consistency." He commented that some of his opponents "are wearing the road to Damascus out" with their "conversions" to issues like illegal immigration. Thompson said he chose "truth" over the theme of "change," which has become the messages of many campaigns.

"The biggest change would be if politicians quit talkin' about change," Thompson said. "Change to what? Change from what? ? What do we want to change to - higher taxes and all of that? Like I said, the real change would be speaking the truth to the American people."

The audience pelted him with questions about international and national security. One man, who said he felt Thompson's campaign suffered from a "blackout" of coverage from national media outlets, asked him how Thompson could get more "mainstream media" coverage.

Thompson nodded and smiled, answering, "Win South Carolina."