Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thompson makes it official, almost

From The Washington Post:

Fred D. Thompson will offer himself as a down-home antidote to Washington politics in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, running a campaign out of Nashville while promising leadership on a conservative agenda that will appeal to his party's base, advisers said yesterday.

Thompson's entry will have an immediate impact on the battle for the GOP nomination, adding a fourth candidate to the field's top tier, which includes former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

All three have struggled to win the confidence of conservative Republicans. Thompson will attempt to make the case that he is the true heir to the mantle of Ronald Reagan and, if successful, would become a formidable candidate for the nomination. But Republican strategists cautioned that Thompson will need a more refined message and an error-free start to live up to the publicity surrounding his all-but-certain candidacy.

Thompson will be aided in his efforts to assume the mantle of Reagan because he consistently denies being another Reagan.

By tomorrow, aides said, the actor and former senator from Tennessee will incorporate a committee called Friends of Fred Thompson and will begin actively raising money for a White House bid. He launched the fundraising effort this week in a conference call with more than 100 supporters, whom he has dubbed his "First Day Founders."

Within the next few weeks, advisers say, a real campaign will take shape, even without a final decision or formal announcement. A Web site will be posted, campaign headquarters will be selected, and a staff will be hired. The signature red pickup truck from Thompson's Senate campaigns will be dusted off.

A senior adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Thompson has not formally announced his intentions, said he is confident about the future.

This is good news. If we can just manage to kill the amnesty legislation making its way through congress this could mean the salvation of the nation. However if amnesty passes it will not matter who is elected in 2008 because that will be the last time it is even possible for a Republican to gain the White House or a Republican majority has any hope of being elected to congress.

Republican strategists predicted yesterday that Thompson will get an immediate boost in the polls by entering the race. "I think overnight he becomes the [conservative] alternative," one strategist said.

But his celebrity and relatively late start in the contest mean that Thompson will face immediate challenges that a less-celebrated candidate might not. Questions about his viability would arise if there should be anything less than strong performances in his first debates, in his ability to raise funds quickly, or in rapidly assembling organizations in states with early contests next year.

He is sure to face sharper criticism from those who say that his eight-year Senate record was undistinguished and that his credentials as a conservative are marred by his support of campaign finance reform. Some also say he is a lackadaisical campaigner, pointing to his sometimes rambling maiden speech last month in Orange County, Calif., as evidence that he is overhyped.

He will have problems due to his late entry. The biggest of them will be that he will be starting with less money than the others. One of his problems will not be "lackadaisical" campaigning. The only problem with the Orange County speech was that those attending had heard a rumor that Thompson would use the occasion to announce his candidacy. They felt let down when he did not.

The greatest asset Thompson will have is the extreme dissatisfaction that conservatives have for the other "Republicans" in the race. Many conservatives, like myself, have already reached a settled conclusion that they will not vote for Rudolph Giuliani even to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. McCain has made his career on insulting the Republican Party's conservative base in exchange for favorable press coverage and Romney, while he is saying the right things, has had too many changes of position on important issues which were too precisely timed to aid his political career to be regarded as trustworthy.