COLUMBIA -- Some items in the notebook:

-- Leading South Carolina Republican consultant Walter Whetsell was ubiquitous at today's GOP fundraiser featuring Fred Thompson. He even sported an "I'm With Fred" button. When one reported asked Whetsell whether he had signed on with Thompson, Whetsell demurred: "Not now." Whetsell, who is close to the SC GOP’s state chairman, specializes in direct mail and has worked on a host of state legislative races. He is a consultant for the non-partisan “Ed In 2008” campaign. Thompson aides have also been talking to consultant Rod Shealy, who somehow managed to convince South Carolinians to re-elect their colorful lieutenant governor despite the latter’s penchant for violating state speed laws and for precipitating the occasional plane crash. Shealy is known outside South Carolina for this.

-- Unaffiliated insiders say that Mitt Romney has built the strongest statewide organization, followed closely by Sen. John McCain. Rudy Giuliani’s efforts in South Carolina are just now ramping up; a new communications director, Braden Bunch, the research director for Gov. Mark Sanford’s re-election campaign. Braden’s boss on the campaign was Jason Miller, who now works in Giuliani’s New York press shop.

-- Giuliani had a rough week of press in the state; his state campaign chairman was indicted on cocaine distribution charges, and the replacement, the chairman’s father, Arthur Ravenel, has a seems to have a penchant for controversial comments.

--SC GOP chairman Katon Dawson tells me he will “definitely” move the party’s primary from January 29 to … he’s not sure how much earlier, but Republicans believe he could choose Jan. 15 as the date.

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