DES MOINES, Iowa, 9:21 p.m. — For a city the size of Des Moines, the presidential field can feel too crowded sometimes. That was the case Thursday night as Fred Thompson supporters accidentally walked into Ron Paul’s after-party, much to the chagrin of Paul’s following. Thompson, the Texas congressman’s backers said, is on the second floor of the Des Moines Marriott.
Downstairs the hors d’oeuvres were better, the press thicker and the crowd older. After some searching amid jackets and gray hair, I found sister and brother Onnalee and Barnes Kelley, 17 and 21, respectively, standing at a table analyzing the results as they came in on CNN.
“[Thompson] was probably not as intense as the Democratic contenders — like Obama, who was really intense and got into all these schools,” Onnalee says. “[Thompson] had support with Republican young people. He could have had more, though.”
But Barnes, a student at Colgate University, said most of his college friends are backing other candidates, like Delaware Senator Joe Biden or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And that’s not due to a lack of name ID — Barnes said “everybody” at Colgate knows about Thompson through his role on the hit TV show “Law and Order.”
From here, Barnes thinks Thompson’s best chance to recapture the momentum he originally had when mulling a candidacy in the summer of 2007 lies in a strong showing in the South, especially in the South Carolina GOP primary on Jan. 19. He might be right. After all, no candidate has won the Republican nomination without winning the South Carolina primary since 1980. If Thompson truly is still the “Clear Conservative Choice,” he’ll have to prove it in South Carolina.