Well, neither is his chief rival for the nomination. But then, his rival isn’t expecting to win the south.

Thompson, in his first campaign stop in South Carolina, told a crowd of about 500 Republicans yesterday that he gained his values from “sitting around the kitchen table” with his parents and “the good Church of Christ.”

Talking to reporters later, Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, said his church attendance “varies.”

“I attend church when I’m in Tennessee. I’m in McLean right now,” he said referring to the Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., where he lives. “I don’t attend regularly when I’m up there.”

Thompson said he usually attends church when visiting his mother in Tennessee and isn’t a member of any church in the Washington area…

“I know that I’m right with God and the people I love,” he said in Greenville. It’s “just the way I am not to talk about some of these things.”

I look forward to hearing in the comments whether this is a big deal or not. Meanwhile, WaPo and the LA Times are spinning Rudy’s diminishing lead as evidence of a crumble. Is it? He’s lost nine points since late July in the WaPo poll, four to Fred and two each to McCain and Romney. (Huckabee’s gained three since then, too.) Part of Fred’s gain is due to the announcement bounce, though. The LAT poll of early battleground states is more interesting.

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Rudy’s surprisingly close to Mitt in New Hampshire and to Fred in South Carolina given their respective “home field” advantages. Here’s the shocker, though:

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It’s amazing that pro-choice, pro-civil union Giuliani only trails Fred by two on social issues in deep-red SC. It’s a testament to two things, I suspect: the depth of ignorance about Rudy’s views on domestic policy and the fact that Mitt hasn’t yet turned his advertising artillery on Rudy in the state, preferring instead thus far to tout his own record. Mitt’s problem with Fred’s entry is that he has to triangulate now between Thompson and Giuliani. If he turns the guns on Rudy, it leaves Fred — his rival for social con votes — above the fray. If he turns the guns on Fred, they split the social con vote and Rudy maybe ekes out a surprise win. Choices, choices.

Meanwhile, the 400-lb. gorilla waits in the wings and, if you believe the Wash Times, prepares to make his entrance. I’m a little nervous that he’ll crush the others in the debates and leave us with a radioactive nominee for the general. Exit question: What are we to make of this?

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Update: Uh oh.