WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. - Latecomer Fred Thompson, who hasn't officially entered the 2008 presidential race, is setting Republican pulses racing in this early voting state.
Thompson, 64, an actor and former Tennessee senator, has no serious political organization in South Carolina and makes his first appearance in this campaign season in the state on Wednesday. So it's a sign of Republicans' deep unease with the current field of 10 GOP candidates that conservative voters are watching Thompson with interest.
"I'm much more impressed with Thompson than I am with any of the others," said Claude Sandidge, a 67-year-old retired produce broker. Thompson has the "conservative principles that correlate with Ronald Reagan," he added.
Betty Jackson, 73, who has run the Sunset Grill, a meeting place for GOP faithful, for 34 years, explained: "We're hunting a true conservative. That's what we're doing. That's why we're waiting."
Thompson, she said, may be that candidate. "If our country needed defending, I think he would do it. But I also think that he would do something about the border situation," Jackson said.