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Bottum: O Thompson! My Thompson!

6:26 AM, Jan 14, 2008 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
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O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells. Fred Thompson has roused himself for the battle in South Carolina, and his sparkling performance at last week's Republican debate promises - um, well, mostly it promises what might have been.

Why did it have to be this way? There was a moment when Thompson seemed the answer to Giuliani, the clear alternative, and he let it dither and slither away. Maybe Giuliani did, too. But the polls show Thompson so distantly behind that a reasonably close third-place finish, behind Huckabee and McCain, would seem a victory. O heart! heart! heart! / O the bleeding drops of red, / Where on the deck my Captain lies, / Fallen cold and dead.

Of course, if - as happened Saturday night - Georgetown University's 7'2" center can hit a three-pointer with four seconds left to win a game, bringing joy to the hearts of all Washingtonians, then anything is possible. Including a revenant Fred Thompson. Rise up - for you the flag is flung - for you the bugle trills; / For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths - for you the shores a-crowding; / For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.