Thompson Surge Earns Third

Fred Thompson, who only a week ago was predicted to finish behind Ron Paul, roared into third place in the Iowa Caucuses, passing McCain and Giuliani. Huckabee and Romney finished one and two. Because so many had written off Thompson, his third-place showing should bolster his campaign--a campaign that seemed stuck in low gear until recently.

The sad news is the support for Huckabee, a "non-conservative" Baptist minister who played a populism card in Iowa, demagoguing the Christian Right to build big momentum headed into the caucuses. Remarkably uninformed on foreign policy and wrong (by GOP standards) on immigration, taxation, and federalism, Huckabee managed to hold onto enough caucusers to claim victory in the first party contest of the year.

For the most of the field, New Hampshire is next in play. For Thompson, he's likely to take the formula that propelled his late rally straight to South Carolina where he has strong support. McCain is expected to win New Hampshire handily.

Congratulations to Fred and the Fredheads.

UPDATE

From National Review, K-Lo's interview with Katon Dawson, South Carolina GOP Chair:

DAWSON: Each candidate has something to be encouraged about after tonight including Fred Thompson. Iowa doesn’t have the make-or-break history that our State’s primary enjoys, and I believe Thompson is one of a number of Republican presidential hopefuls who can move forward tonight with confidence.

From Outside the Beltway:

UPDATE (2220): At 95 and 78, the only noteworthy change is that McCain and Thompson have swapped places. They’re separated by a mere 36 votes, so we’ll likely not know who finishes in third place until morning.

UPDATE (12:25 a.m.)

Here's the audio of Fred's comments to supporters. South Carolina, here we come!

And Captain Ed hits the nail on the head:

Thompson needed a third-place finish just to keep his credibility alive. It looks like he did that, and conservatives who had made a mad rush to help him stay afloat in the last two weeks have longer to build momentum for him. If they can make a big push in South Carolina, he could get back in the race -- but that also helps Giuliani.

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