(CNN) - Republican Fred Thompson defended his campaign strategy of conceding early voting contests to focus on southern states in a CNN Late Edition interview Sunday - but conceded the plan hinged on a fundraising boost to his cash-poor campaign.
“If we can raise the money sufficient to hold our own on television…we will win South Carolina and we will be in good shape,” Thompson told Wolf Blitzer. His campaign has struggled to stay competitive on the airwaves in recent weeks, and briefly went dark in Iowa in the days leading up to the state’s January 3 caucuses.
The former Tennessee senator is statistically tied for third, along with Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in most recent surveys of South Carolina GOP primary voters. Iowa winner and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is leading most polls, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
South Carolina is turning into a must-win for Thompson, who finished third in Iowa and is running last in New Hampshire. Last week, he was forced to deny reports he was planning to drop out of the race and support John McCain if he fared poorly in Hawkeye State voting.
”Everybody said that Rudy was inevitable, then Mitt was inevitable, now they are on to McCain, you know, everybody I would come in fourth in Iowa,” Thompson said Sunday. “I didn't, I came in third. So steadily…we are getting to be exactly where we wanted to be at this point.”
South Carolina's Republicans head to the polls January 19.
–CNN’s Jessica Rummel and Rebecca Sinderbrand