And so, on page A3 of the Washington Post, appears my favorite political story of the day – about the link between South Carolina’s feared and (in some quarters) revered GOP hitman, J. Warren Tompkins, and the creation of an anti-Fred Thompson website called PhoneyFred.org. Tompkins is serving as Mitt Romney’s top South Carolina adviser — a role he has played often in his 25-year run as the most powerful non-elected man in Palmetto State politics. It was the role Tompkins played for George W. Bush in the Bush campaign’s smackdown of John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary. For those who don’t recall, that was the state where “mysterious” pro-Bush forces waged an under-the-radar slander campaign against McCain, who had just demolished Bush in the New Hampshire primary. The Bush campaign — including Tompkins — claimed no complicity in the slander, an assertion taken at face value by exactly no one with any experience in South Carolina GOP politics.
PhoneyFred.Org disappeared from the Web shortly after the Post’s reporter, Michael Shear, began asking the Romney campaign about it. Thompson spokesman Todd Harris (a McCain 2000 veteran) called on Romney to fire Tompkins. As this SC blogger pointed out last year, Tompkins’ power in the state has been ebbing. And his role in Romney’s campaign hasn’t done anything to lift the former Massachussetts governor out of fourth place in South Carolina polls of the GOP candidates. We’ll see what happens.