Monday, July 02, 2007

It's all in the timing

From The Washington Times:

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The venue was vintage Fred D. Thompson: a gun shop. Perfect for the down-home, Washington-outsider candidate who campaigned across Tennessee in the 1990s with a red pickup truck, rolled-up shirt sleeves and a straight-talking attitude.

But there was a difference on Thursday. Thompson was dressed in a dark blue suit, a white shirt and shiny black loafers as he chatted with gun purchasers. And as he sped away to visit a diner, it was in a caravan of a black
Chevy Suburban and a black GMC Yukon, each with tinted windows and filled with advisers.

Welcome to the Thompson for President campaign.

He hasn't made it official, but an announcement will probably come in the next two weeks, top campaign advisers say. Last Tuesday, the campaign signed a long-term lease on a building in
Nashville that will serve as its national headquarters. That night, Thompson raised between $600,000 and $700,000 at a glitzy fundraiser at the home of a Nashville music mogul.

[. . .]

But even as he rushes to assemble the infrastructure for a presidential campaign, he is still struggling to define what his candidacy, and a potential Thompson presidency, will be about. Will he embrace his Southern drawl and campaign, as fellow Tennessean Lamar Alexander once did, in a Paul Bunyan-esque shirt? Or will he tout his decades as a Capitol Hill staff member, lobbyist, lawyer, senator and friend to the powerful?

In his first two speeches in important primary states last week, here and in
South Carolina, Thompson seemed to suggest he will do both.

"I just came from Nashville, and I don't feel like I've left home," Thompson told a crowd in
Columbia, S.C., Wednesday afternoon. He then repeatedly mocked Washington politicians, at one point referring to the "foolishness" in the nation's capital.

At New Hampshire's Wayfarer Inn the next day, Thompson said that the federal government is "not competent to be doing the very basic things it was elected to do in many cases."

When a reporter asked how he can run as an outsider when he has been an insider for so long, Thompson rejected the label.

"I have never used the word 'outsider,' " Thompson scolded his questioner. "It's a delineation that doesn't mean anything. You don't have to be from
Alaska or Hawaii to see faults with your government. I've been talking about things wrong with Washington when I was a part of it, before I was a part of it and since I was a part of it."

[. . .]

Top advisers say they can finesse the clash between Thompson's anti-Washington theme and his years of service there with a simple message: Washington has lost its connection to the rest of the country.

"The politicians have lost their connection with what people really want and what they really expect," said a senior adviser who requested anonymity to discuss strategy. "The way he views being an outsider would be as someone who views the people inside the Beltway as not connected to the outside."

[. . .]

Thompson's long connections to Washington have already surfaced as potential pitfalls.

Last month, the Democratic National Committee launched a preemptive attack against Thompson, issuing a dossier that described him as "a reliable supporter, defender of President Bush" who played "a key role in Bush Supreme Court nominations" and has a "lobbying career full of landmines."

[. . .]

"As part of his role as the ultimate Washington insider, Thompson offered to host yet another fundraising event for Scooter Libby's legal defense fund," the DNC's executive director, Tom McMahon, wrote in an e-mail to party supporters. "Thompson has been vocal in his support of Libby, saying that he would 'absolutely' pardon him."

I have to wonder if Thompson doesn't have a mole inside the DNC. Right now the race is for each party's nomination and reminding Republicans that Thompson played a "key role" in getting Roberts and Alito onto the Supreme Court and that he would pardon Scooter Libby is only going to raise his standing with Republicans.

The DNC may not realize it but they gave Thompson the equivalent of a $1,000,000.00 national campaign commercial. With enemies like this he hardly needs friends.

I am one who has had doubts about Fred's strategy of waiting till just about the last realistic minute to enter the primary race, but now I see the wisdom in it.

First of all by remaining aloof from the other candidates he has distanced himself from them. Giuliani is California telling everyone that if they want to see what kind of president he will be they only have to look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know the RINO governor who is popular in a heavily blue state like CA, but is a bitter disappointment to the conservatives who worked so hard to get him elected.

Mitt Romney is a good fund raiser, but cannot get voters to see past his clumsily timed flip-flops on key issues and McCain is immolating himself like a Scottish suicide bomber over his support of the late and unlamented amnesty bill. And while all this is going on none of the second tier candidates like Hunter or Huckabee or Tancredo has managed to gain any traction.

Thompson stands apart looking like the only reasonable alternative.

Second, by being coy with his official announcement Thompson is allowing the media, in both its old and new forms, to put his name out before the public and give him equal standing with the announced candidates. All of this without spending a dime.

Finally, by entering late Thompson has created a sense of anticipation in the electorate. As the story on Thompson has gone from "would he even be willing to consider running" to "will he or won't he" to "when will he make it official" the public has felt as though they were a part of the process. The other candidates had either stated their intention to run long ago or at least heavily telegraphed their intentions well before the primary campaign began.

Thompson didn't start talking about running until a whole lot of people started taking about drafting him. Republicans are coming to see Rudy and Mitt and the others as beggars at the bus station each with his hand out wanting something from the voters. Fred, on the other hand, is the talent that we went out and recruited ourselves to help us solve a difficult problem.

This will not last of course. Eventually he will have to "lead, follow or get out of the way", but his sense of timing so far has been excellent. I think his announcement in a few days will be perfectly timed to place him in the best possible place heading into the heart of the primary season.