Up to now, Fred Thompson has brilliantly remained coy about his presidential ambitions -- to the point of exasperation among some of his would-be fans. Now, however, Fred has made clear that he intends to run, and in a USA Today interview, how he plans to do it:
In an interview with USA TODAY, however, the former Tennessee senator not only makes it clear that he plans to run, he describes how he aims to do it. He's planning a campaign that will use blogs, video posts and other Internet innovations to reach voters repelled by politics-as-usual in both parties. ...
Thompson could reshape a GOP contest in which each of the three leaders has significant vulnerabilities and none of the seven second-tier contenders has broken through. Without formally joining the race — he's preparing to do that as early as the first week of July — Thompson already is placing third and better among Republican candidates in some national polls.
Dissatisfaction among one-third of Republicans with the 2008 field has opened the door for the candidate, whose folksy tone, actor's ease before an audience and conservative credentials drew comparisons to Ronald Reagan at the annual Connecticut GOP dinner here. Thompson addressed the dinner last week to a sold-out audience.
"People listen to him and see someone who's very comfortable with who he is and confident about what he believes in," state Republican chairman Chris Healy says. "That's a skill that, obviously, Ronald Reagan took to great heights."
That's the obvious attraction for Fred. He has the same kind of demeanor as Ronald Reagan, the same kind of presence, and it's probably not coincidence that both of them worked in Hollywood. However, where Reagan started in films, Thompson started in politics, and he has a long history as a reformer and an activist against corruption.
Earlier this week, I noted that Fred seemed to be staging a philosopher's campaign for the Presidency. Rather than declaring and then opining about issues on an individual basis, he has remained out of the fray, concentrating on issues to support the grander theme of federalism and smaller government. So far, that has worked, and he tells USA Today that his campaign themes will reflect that: "tighter borders, smaller government, lower taxes". While that's not exactly an unknown combination among present Republican presidential candidates, Fred bets that his consistency -- and his persona -- will lend greater credibility to his claim to those themes in the primary campaign.
He may be right, but he's going to have tough competition. Mitt Romney sounds those same themes, although the "smaller government" portion tends to get buried in discussions of health care, where Republicans tend to mistrust any mention of that issue as a stalking-horse for expansion of entitlements. Romney rejects that approach, but some Republican voters may remain wary. John McCain also hammers the same themes, but his record on the Bush tax cuts hurts. Rudy Giuliani also lays claim to those principles. So do Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, and Ron Paul takes them to the extreme.
It will take the next coming of Ronald Reagan to break out of the pack. Thompson will have to convince GOP voters that he gives the party the best opportunity to actually put those principles into action -- something that twelve years of GOP control over Congress and six over the White House didn't accomplish. Can he do that? Fred makes it clear that he will grasp the opportunity to convince us.