The "Law & Order" star abandoned his presidential bid today, as had been expected, after a third place showing in the South Carolina primary.

His candidacy never gained much traction after a late start into the contest. And a great debate performance last week failed to catapult him into a better-than-expected showing in South Carolina.

In a statement, Thompson said, "I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."

Thompson announced his candidacy on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," but it seemed to be under assault from day one. The appearance itself took place during a GOP debate in New Hampshire, and rivals made sure to note the slight. His campaign never seemed to get off the ground, and the media was relentless in its characterizations of his style of politicking as "lazy."

By November, any momentum that Thompson had in Iowa seemed to shift to Mike Huckabee, who, ironically, enlisted a Hollywood figure of his own to lend support: Chuck Norris.

Why didn’t his campaign take off? "Lost opportunity" seems to be the catch phrase.

"His legacy is one of missed opportunities, broken promises and an unfortunate disdain for the process," Mark Corallo, a Republican consultant who worked on his campaign at the beginning, told the Washington Post’s The Fix blog. "His legacy is also one of having been the only candidate seeking the Republican nomination who was willing to talk real substance, take a true, consistent conservative approach to every issue, of actually challenging the notion of big government, championing federalism and being honest about the looming entitlement train wreck that is going to bankrupt our kids. He was a lackluster candidate who would have been a great president."

Who benefits? Thompson did well among evangelicals, and that support could now flow to Huckabee. But if Huckabee does not campaign heavily in Florida, those votes could tilt to Mitt Romney. And if he endorses anyone, which his campaign says he will not do, the thinking is that he’d back John McCain.

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