Fred Thompson: No, I didn't stay in the race to help McCain beat Huckabee

“Minding my own business, having my second cup of coffee, contemplating the election in general terms and the future, and Mike wanted to revisit the campaign last time,” Thompson said, smiling. “What Mike said is fine, except for one thing: there’s not one shred of truth to it! Senator McCain and I never had a conversation about staying in the race, staying out of the race… Mike’s been around long enough to know not to inhale that stuff too deeply… It’s just a little rewriting of history that’s unnecessary.”

When Huckabee made his charge, he said it without any visible bitterness. Perhaps believing this claim is part of how Huckabee made his peace with the experience of running for president, enjoying some early victories, and then falling short. Even for the most thick-skinned and confident candidate, an electoral defeat must be an intensely personal rejection. After all, the name on the ballot isn’t your campaign manager, your advertising director, your press secretary or anyone around you; it’s your name. So it’s not surprising that a candidate might look for some explanation that would shift the cause of the defeat from their own mistakes, missteps, or overall inability to persuade voters to some outside force or confluence of events.

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