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“ ’We needed bigger margins out of Greenville and Spartanburg, and the difference was Fred,’ said Huckabee’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, after his candidate conceded. ‘He wasn’t running a race for him. He was attacking Mike Huckabee for the last two weeks.’

“Those attacks became a standard feature of Thompson’s campaign in the closing days before the primary. The Huckabee campaign had no solution for Thompson, who barely polled within striking distance of second place and was seen by some as a foil for McCain, with whom he is friends. ‘Fred Thompson, John McCain’s lapdog, came down here and definitely hurt the Huckabee vote, no doubt about that,’ said former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, who chaired the Huckabee campaign here, after the loss.

“Too short on cash to blanket local television with ads, Huckabee also suffered from a self-inflicted wound — the decision to put up a fight in last Tuesday’s Michigan primary. ‘Had we had a couple more days here, we would have definitely won, no ifs, ands, or buts about it,’ said Beasley. Instead, while Thompson camped out in South Carolina, Huckabee spent nearly four days after the New Hampshire primary traveling through Michigan, where he finished a distant third.”

Forgotten issue

“Little makes the White House team crazier than when critics, pundits, and reporters raise President Bush’s legacy without mentioning his efforts in Africa and his $30 billion AIDS program,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Like the Lost Continent itself, Africa gets forgotten in the mix of other legacy issues headlined by 9/11, the war, taxes, and partisanship. ‘It’s frustrating,’ says a former top aide, ‘because it’s one of the things he’s most proud of.’

“This is an issue that involves all of the administration. ‘It’s a family affair,’ says an aide. ‘When the president talks about all the reasons America is important, it’s one of them.’ Bush’s top aide, Josh Bolten, is described as ‘passionate’ on the issue, first lady Laura Bush has toured African nations, and daughter Barbara Bush has cared for African AIDS babies. In the ‘Who knew?’ category, Bush has met with more African leaders than any other president.

“Well, enough waiting: We hear that Bush plans to talk up his Africa and AIDS efforts in the State of the Union address and will travel to Africa next month. His wish: Americans will hear voices like Zambian Bridget Chisenga, who credits the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with saving her life. ‘I’ve seen the Lazarus effect,’ she told Bush privately last November. ‘I’m alive because I have received this help from your initiative.’ ”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.