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