November 6th, 2007
06:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Thompson to Romney: 'You can't buy South Carolina'

Romney and Thompson faced off at Thompson's first debate appearance with the Republican field.

FORT MILL, South Carolina (CNN) - Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson accused former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Tuesday of trying to buy his way into the hearts of South Carolina's Republican primary voters.

"Apparently a lot of people think if they spend a lot of money they can put a little different cast on things," Thompson told a crowd of supporters in this town near the North Carolina border. "Now, the governor of Massachusetts has apparently spent $20 million dollars of his own personal fortune, and apparently a good chunk of that in South Carolina. All I got to say is: governor, you can't buy South Carolina. You can't even rent South Carolina."

Romney has built up a considerable ground game in South Carolina and hired some of the state’s top political consultants. He is also the first and only Republican running television ads in this state.

“Support from voters is earned though hard work and new ideas. Unfortunately for Fred Thompson, he has never shown any passion for either," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Tuesday, responding to Thompson's comments.

"Governor Romney is working hard across South Carolina to build a great team of supporters that continues to grow. His support is the result of reaching out to voters and showing them that he has the vision the experience and the values to lead America. The governor is going to keep holding the town halls, continue his travels all over the state and he's going to keep talking about his plan to bring conservative change to Washington,” Madden added.

Thompson, who tackled the flashpoint conservative issues of illegal immigration and gay marriage in his speech, suggested Romney has shifted his positions to suit the temperament of conservative, Southern voters.

"If there's one thing I want the people of South Carolina and the people of Tennessee and the people of this country to say about Fred Thompson when this is over with, is that no matter what, where he stands does not depend on where he's standing at any given time," Thompson said to applause. "Where I stand is where I always stood."

He added, "Fred is Fred. That ain't gonna change."

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Fred Thompson • Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. A. Thomas, New York, NY

    Yes, Romney spends a disproportionate camapaign money in South Carolina and other early primary states to successfully gain leads there, while ignoring the later primary states where he trails behind other repub candidates.

    Ditto for Obama who has spent tons of money on ads in the early primary states including Iowa hoping to gain lead in polls, but has failed so far. Obama wants to win in Iowa badly.

    This shows that money can buy voters' attention, but not necessary supports.

    November 6, 2007 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  2. Charlie, Upstate NY

    Smart move by Thompson to attack Romney. His jibes perfectly address the blow-dried banker's vulnerabilities of wealth (he ain't one of us), region (he don't talk like us), and authenticity (real Americans don't just buy elections, particularly Yankees in Dixie). Thompson has to make inroads against Romney's startling performance thus far among conservatives, lest he lose all hope. Romney is a dangerous foe who is both smart and rich. He's also from a powerful political family, and he knows the game well. No one really knows who Romney is; he's one way to this audience, and another to another audience. But he cleans up well, he speaks well, and he has a lot of money. If Giuliani crashes and burns, and he might, the race may go to the mystery man himself, the Republican from Massachusetts, the pro-choice pro-lifer, the walking paradox, Mitt Romney.

    November 6, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. Joe, York Pa

    Fred is the man!

    November 6, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  4. Bryan, Beaufort SC

    Yo Fred, just because you woke up late and just entered the race, you think Romney's buying the race? Wake up dude. It's a campaign!!! You're supposed to advertise yourself to voters to let them know who you are and why you're running. That's what Romney has been doing. You seem to only have just started, so you have to criticize those that have been doing it longer than you? You know, I've listened to a lot of what you say, and it seems to be limited to what "ought" to be done, not "what" you'll do. Have you seen Romney's plan for just about everything under the sun? It's pretty extensive. I think everybody else has a vision for what they'll do, except for you. So how about this: you go figure out what your ideas are, figure out what your strategy will be to communicate that, and get started for the 2012 race, because it's pretty late in the game to be just getting your feet wet. Sorry. Game over for you, buddy.

    November 6, 2007 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. Jim, Charleston, SC

    Remember the Woody Allen movie "Zelig" where the lead character assumed the persona of the people around him? That's Mitt Romney. When he runs for office in Massachusetts, he's a liberal who's for gay rights and abortion. When he runs in South Carolina, he's a conservative who's anti-gay rights and pro-life. What persona would he assume if he were to be elected President? God only knows.

    November 6, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  6. Abby, Columbia, SC

    Romney is going to win South Carolina. We love you, Mitt!

    November 6, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. Mike Smith, New Orleans, Louisiana

    Whoever has the most money wins Republicans.

    November 6, 2007 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  8. Arlie Rufus Atlanta, GA

    Classic - let's use the gays and hispanics again...and again...and again to get the crowds energized that these are "values" - but not a word about the lies that continue to kill our brave men and women being a "value" - It won't work this time around. Here's hoping Fred and Mitt continue to use their time in front of America to talk about gay marriage - because American's want to talk about REAL issues.

    November 6, 2007 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  9. Ellen Kelly, Cohasset, Massachusetts

    The former absentee governor Romney certainly feels that he can buy is way into the white house. I think we need to tell im that the White House is not for sale.

    November 6, 2007 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. Brian, Sandy, UT

    Thompson, you can't buy Anything! But the fact remains, Romney isn't buying people's votes, he's spending to get his name out there, he has started off as an underdog, with virtually no name recognition. That's all he needs, the more most people get to know him, the more they like him. Your right, he can't buy S. Carolina, but the people of So. Carolina are buying him!

    November 6, 2007 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  11. I. Dern (Fairfax, Va)

    Mitt "Mr. Moneybags" Romney buying votes?

    The idea is absurd!

    Why would he outspend every other candidate and use up millions of his money in campaign loans to just to buy votes?

    No, he's trying to buy the election... not individual votes!

    November 6, 2007 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  12. Elizabeth, CA

    I am not voting for Thompason, but he is right. John Edwards and Romney look like matching Ken Dolls and being RICH and RICHER, respectively, will be their downfall. $400.00 haircuts and $20 million of ones own pocket money to buy voters is disgraceful. I'm sorry but come on…don't they look like they were twins separated at birth? All face, no base. Sorry boys, your money and good looks arent going to help you this time.

    November 6, 2007 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  13. J, Ada OK

    I heard Fred on the radio today. The more I hear him the more I Dread Fred...

    Romney is much more upbeat and innovative.

    November 6, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  14. fed up with the republicans ny ny

    Who is this guy Mitt?....what a name

    November 6, 2007 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  15. rachel lanore, beverly hills, ca

    From everything I have seen and read, Romney has worked just as hard or harder than any other candidate in this Pres. o8 election. Those that give him a fair chance will see that if he is elected our next President, he will give 100% and go the extra mile when ever he is called upon to do that. He will not let the American people down... and I can't wait to hear him converse in French,with people around the world who speak French... that will be so cool, to have another bi-lingual Pres.

    November 6, 2007 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. Benjamin Brockman, Vancouver, WA

    Romney isn't buying votes. Richard Nixon said it best on a Watergate tape, "He is dumb as hell, Fred Thompson."

    November 6, 2007 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  17. AJ, Ames, Iowa

    Romney has pretty much bought Iowa, why shouldn't South Carolina be any different.

    November 6, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  18. nutso, new orleans

    geaux fred!!

    November 6, 2007 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  19. C. K. Justus SC

    Thompson is not going to win this state either.
    I hope Ron Paul wins, but Beltram and cohorts will do all they can to stop him for he is not dancing to his tune.

    November 6, 2007 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  20. Ray Fisher, Albuquerque, NM

    He's not buying, just wants to rent it till election day!!!

    November 6, 2007 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  21. Dan, Saint Louis, MO

    Good post Brian. Romney wasn't an actor or the beneficiary of national goodwill after 9-11, so he has to spend money to allow people to get to know him. Romney has raised more money than any other Republican, so all this about him just spending his own money is garbage. Thompson's numbers have gone straight down ever since he announced. I wish some of these duds like Thompson would just drop out so true economic and social conservatives could coalesce behind one candidate, namely Romney.

    November 6, 2007 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  22. Joe, St. Paul, MN

    South Carolina is NOTHING without Stephen Colbert!

    November 6, 2007 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  23. Jonathan, Cambridge, MA

    I love that. "Conservative change". Romney really puts the "moron" in "oxymoron"...

    Change is about the only thing Romney can talk about, considering the only thing consistent about his positions on the issues we all care about is that they have changed to align with what is politically expedient. Talk to some Republicans who have lived in Massachusetts for the past few years-Romney is perhaps the emptiest suit in politics since Bill Clinton. His ineffective "leadership" (the term is generous) has done severe damage to an already weak Republican party here, and it is going to take an awful lot of elections to repair it.

    I, for one, won't give him the chance to do the same thing on the national level!

    November 6, 2007 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  24. Bryan, Boston, MA

    Romney is twice the candidate, twice the leader and twice the man that Fred Thompson is. Romney is a stellar candidate, and the word here in Boston is that he has the potential to be Mount Rushmore quality. Fred, if the worst thing you can say about Romney is that he is investing his own money in getting his message out – you have signaled that this is all over for you. I guess the positive side of being a poor fund-raiser Fred, is you don't have any money to loose...just the nomination; which you are and which you will.

    November 6, 2007 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  25. Rob, San Diego CA

    This guy again?

    Fred, what are you doing awake? It's way past your bedtime! GO BACK TO SLEEP!

    November 7, 2007 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
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