COLUMBIA -- They were voting in New Hampshire, but Fred Thompson was stumping in South Carolina.
The television actor and former Tennessee U.S. senator became the first of the 2008 presidential candidates to arrive here Tuesday, abandoning the nation's first primary and casting his lot in the Palmetto State.
Tuesday, he opened an 11-day bus tour, campaigning in Green-ville, Lexington, Camden and Columbia. Political analysts think Thompson might need to win the Jan. 19 GOP presidential primary to keep his campaign viable.
"This is his kinda state," said Yusef Hameen, 54, of Camden, who wandered out of his Broad Street clothing store to see the commotion caused by Thompson's afternoon arrival. "That's why he's here early. He's a Southerner, so he got here ahead of the rest, which tells me he thinks it's worth it."
Never miss a local story.
But Hameen confessed he doesn't plan to vote for Thompson, which probably is another reason the former "Law & Order" star is here so early. "I know him more as an actor," Hameen said.
About 40 or so people gathered around variously to see Thompson, who shook hands, posed for pictures and smiled a lot. He strolled into a couple of shops and greeted folks, then boarded his bus again.
Brenda Moseley of Dalzell and Judith Henderson of Sumter also were among the curious who walked up to see Thompson. But are they going to vote for him?
"I'm undecided," Henderson said.
"Don't know yet," Moseley said.
Henderson said she likes U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
"I'm on the religious right, and I'm still looking. We're looking for a God-fearing candidate."
The bad news for Thompson, who did not take media questions in Camden, is the latest Rasmussen poll out Tuesday showed him in fourth place in South Carolina, with 11 percent of the vote, down from being tied for the lead here among Republicans as recently as November.
That didn't faze Brian Wieneke of Camden, who said he "lucked up" on Thompson's visit while picking up his children from school.
"We saw your bus and freaked out," he told Thompson.
Wieneke, who had his daughters Ashleigh, 10, and Briana, 13, along, said he is a native of Brentwood, Tenn., where Thompson was his U.S. senator.
"It's an uphill thing for him in South Carolina," Wieneke said. "But he absolutely is my man. He has got to get out and meet people and get his message out there."