How Much Does Fred Hate Huck?

According to CNN’s fancy map of South Carolina, Fred Thompson is sapping votes away from Mike Huckabee in the socially conservative north. If that’s the case, Thompson probably has a smile on his face.

Thompson’s distaste for Huckabee has been apparent throughout the campaign. Thompson often pushes back against Huckabee at debates and regularly sends emails critiquing Huckabee’s stances on immigration and taxes. Persona-wise, Huckabee is everything Thompson isn’t—charming, funny, and self-effacing. Most importantly, Huckabee possesses the star power that many Republicans hoped Thompson would have in the race. Huck is bizarro Fred.

Most importantly, Huckabee has stolen Thompson’s base right out from under him. Thompson’s from neighboring Tennessee, after all, so he was the guy supposed to be doing well in conservative South Carolina. Thompson was supposed to be the guy who grabbed the evangelical vote. Thompson was the guy people were supposed to coalesce around. Instead, the story became about Thompson’s lassitude and Huckabee’s quips.

Given all of this, it’s not unreasonable to think that Thompson would stay in the race through Florida just to torment Huckabee. Despite a litany of shortcomings, Thompson still pulled in 15 percent in South Carolina tonight (with 72 percent precincts reporting), so he holds some sway. One would think he’d sap some of Huckabee’s strength in Florida, as well. It may be Thompson’s only chance to stay relevant.

In his speech tonight, Fred Thompson said his presidential campaign was never about him. He’s right. Maybe it was always about Huck.

Photograph of Fred Thompson on Slate ‘s home page by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.