Steve Kornacki in The New York Observer notes  what I sensed from the beginning and what most everyone has come to realise: Fred Thompson’s campaign is awful. The original movement to bring Fred into the race never made any sense to me  from the first time it was mentioned, but once he was in and his polling started to pick up it seemed as if the absurd campaign without a rationale had a chance. Since a Romney or a Giuliani victory always seemed inherently ridiculous and impossible (I still think so), I started to assume that Thompson would somehow succeed as his rivals faltered or imploded. Support for Thompson never made any sense, I thought, so why should his objectively bad performance change anything? Maybe the GOP really is desperate enough for an unimaginative nostalgia-driven campaign that Thompson could still be competitive, but I now doubt it. In reality, as we all know, Romney is gaining strength, McCain is reviving, Giuliani remains in the front nationally, and Thompson is withering.
As Kornacki put it:
But the reality is more like this: A tired man half-heartedly pedaling a generic message, his fatigue practically contagious.
The notion that Mr. Thompson would overwhelm his G.O.P. foes and power his way to the nomination has long since been dismissed. No one now thinks he’ll win Iowa, or even factor in New Hampshire, for that matter. Now, the talk is that he’ll make a stand in South Carolina, which will somehow catapult him toward a dominant performance in the February 5 mega-primary.
But it’s tough to see him meeting even those radically lowered expectations. The problem is that the smart guys (and gals—like Mary Matalin) who coaxed Mr. Thompson into the race badly misread the reasons for the G.O.P. base’s depressed state. The Thompson crowd chalked it up to bloodless litmus test politics.
And nothing seems to say “bloodless” better than Fred Thompson on the stump.
Update: Here is some more information from the Orangeburg Times-Democrat  on Thompson’s faltering campaign:
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson mocked a rival for trying to buy South Carolina this week, but the former Tennessee senator’s campaign hasn’t taken advantage of even the cheapest publicity: a sign outside its headquarters.