Be jealous, Fred Heads. I was just on a call with the man himself. I couldn’t get a question in edgewise with all the other bloggers who were on the call, but the sense I got from Fred is that he expects to use tonight’s debate to change the race in South Carolina. So expect the same Fred we saw last weekend, but more of him. He did seem eager to mix it up with the other candidates, describing the race for the GOP nomination as a race to decide the direction of the party and whether it will remain conservative or move in a more “populist” direction.

The best question came near the end, when RealClearPolitics’ Tom Bevan asked Thompson whether his current standing in the polls were the result of a late start. After observing that being in early hasn’t helped either Giuliani or Romney very much, he declined to speculate. The evidence I know of, both direct and observational, suggests that the problem hasn’t been a late start but a lack of organization and opportunistic acceptance of offered support once he did get started. It’s also debatable whether starting early hasn’t helped Romney, since he was a mostly unknown figure a year ago and now leads the delegate count. But starting early doesn’t seem to have helped Giuliani. I would add that those organization issues seem to be corrected now.

If there was a theme to the conference call, it was that Fred will be Fred and let the voters decide if that’s enough. But it’s probably stretching it to find a theme. Here’s Dan Riehl’s take on the conference call.

Fred will be on Hannity later this afternoon at 3:15 Eastern before heading out for tonight’s debate. South Carolina is a natural state for Thompson to do well in and even win.

Of course, we’ll have an open thread and debate highlights tonight.

Update: I forgot to mention something that Dan reminds me of — Fred has a big conservative endorsement announcement coming tomorrow. Speculate away!

Update: I thought that had to be Frank asking about Bruce Lee. By the way, Jim Geraghty has a transcript of the call. Ed Morrissey was also on the call.