Thompson is making his first trip to South Carolina as an official presidential candidate.
GREENVILLE, South Carolina (CNN) – Fred Thompson makes his South Carolina debut as an official presidential candidate Monday, hoping to appeal to conservatives here that remain ambivalent about the current crop of GOP candidates.
South Carolina could prove to be the former Tennessee senator's most important early state in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Since 1980, the winner of the South Carolina primary has gone on to win the GOP nomination. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush all used South Carolina as a springboard.
But unlike the other Republican candidates in the 2008 race, Thompson has a significant card to play— he’s the only Southern candidate in the race. This could prove to be a huge asset in the Palmetto State.
And while Thompson will venture to Columbia later this afternoon for another event at Doc’s Barbecue, his appearance at the Greenville Marriott may be more scrutinized. This is the most reliably Republican part of the state, the Upstate region that launched the careers of popular former Gov. Carroll Campbell and legendary political operative Lee Atwater.
The church-going, socially conservative voters in the Greenville-Spartanburg area make up the bedrock of the state’s Republican Party, and the candidate that can win their trust on illegal immigration, national security and social issues could break away from the rest of the Republican pack. As the race stands now according to state polls, Thompson closely trails Rudy Giuliani, with John McCain in third place.
So how will Thompson perform on his southern swing? The CNN Political Ticker will be providing updates throughout the day, so check back often.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
The only "southern" candidate in the race? Huh? I guess Arkansas is in the Midwest or something? Texas? What? Hellooooo? Don't you guys read this stuff before you post it?
What will be a huge asset in SC is when Mark Sanford is tapped to be Ron Paul's VP...
What in the world are the rep think we are now no better than the dems and we will sure loose if we pick this guy who is morally bankrupt and well as rudy...were are those conservative values man...the only one in the race with those values is mitt romney hands down! hilliary will win in 08 if it we dont have a CLEAR alternative to fight her.
I'm a Democrat and could care less who the GOP nominates, but – hello- CNN is stating that Fred Thompson is the only Southern candidate?
Mike Huckabee from Arkansas is also running.
I'm starting to wonder about CNN's so-called reporting...
Mike Huckabee isn't even in Fred's league. I am from Arkansas and Huckabee is a wannabe.....
I think you need to take Huckabee seriously, he is running and will get votes, but he won't win unless a tragic plane crash wipes out Giuliani, Thompson, McCain and Romney's hair. He still counts as a candidate.
As for Ron Paul, he is a fringe candidate. He'll get maybe two percent.