June 10, 2007

The Fred Movement Started Early

Stephen Hayes reviews the Draft Fred movement, which most believe started last March, but in reality began just after the midterm elections. In one sense, the narrative Hayes gives Weekly Standard readers shows that the notion of a draft is somewhat fanciful, but it also shows that the grassroots response to the Fred Thompson candidacy has exceeded everyone's expectations:

On November 29, 2006, Tennessee senator Bill Frist said that he would not be running for president. The same day, the Wall Street Journal noted that the announcement "leaves a Republican void in the South, and underscores the absence of any major center-to-right Southern figure in the Republican Party's presidential field thus far."

Others saw the same void. Thompson fielded calls from several friends and former colleagues in the following days. Spencer Abraham, who had resigned as George W. Bush's secretary of energy shortly after the 2004 election, knew Thompson from their days in the Senate. He urged his old friend to consider running. Tennessee congressman Zach Wamp called to say much the same thing. In public, there was very little discussion of a possible Thompson candidacy, though he was mentioned as a possible replacement for U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

Thompson's wife Jeri, a savvy Republican strategist with Capitol Hill experience, asked Mark Corallo, an old friend and public relations guru, to see what he might do to raise her husband's profile in Washington. Thompson had not altogether retired from politics when he left the Senate in January 2003: He was serving as chairman of the State Department's International Security Advisory Board. He was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a member of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, and a commentator for ABC Radio.

Corallo had left his job as spokesman at the Justice Department to open a media consulting firm and agreed to take on the low-intensity work as a favor and without pay. He quietly began to highlight Thompson's activities, in particular calling attention to Thompson's radio work. When the provocative radio commentaries were published on National Review's popular website beginning in January 2007, other conservative websites began to link to them with some regularity--viral marketing, as they say in the online world, and arguably the informal beginning of Thompson's campaign.

No one had to draft Fred into the campaign, in other words. He had decided to at least test the waters in the days after Bill Frist retired from electoral politics. Fred and his team have carefully planned his entry into the race, while leaving him the opening to never enter it at all, if he changed his mind. Unlike the other candidates in this cycle's primaries, he didn't feel the need to start early and go to top speed.

That's what makes Hayes' headline, "The Zero to 60 Thompson Run," more than a little ironic. In fact, Thompson may be the only primary candidate in both parties who has not tried to burn rubber at the line. He has taken his time, watched the field carefully, and used the viral-marketing approach not to raise funds but to lay out his perspective on issues and events. Earlier, I called this a "philosopher's campaign," and I suspect that Fred and his team wanted that kind of dynamic. They wanted to frame Fred as a man who takes his time and builds a strong philosophical base for a broad vision -- a Reaganesque run, in other words.

Hayes mentions the collapse of other "draft" movements, most notably Wes Clark in 2004. Clark did not take the time to build this kind of movement on a broad vision, but instead focused on a narrow issue -- Iraq -- and contributed nothing new. Other Democrats had already adopted his point of view on the war, including John Kerry, which made him superfluous as a presidential candidate. Fred has avoided that fate by casting a much broader policy vision and, unlike Clark, eloquently and clearly delineating it.

And the response has to be gratifying. The Fred team succeeded far beyond the success for which they could have hoped. They began rolling up endorsements just from his consideration of a run in March. Politicians do not usually endorse non-candidates, as those endorsements can limit their power later. Thompson began getting volunteers for fundraising long before he needed to find them. Voters also have responded with enthusiasm, and in some polls, Fred comes in second behind Rudy Giuliani.

Fred has made himself a conservative alternative almost overnight -- except that it took him seven months to do so. And as Hayes notes at the end of the piece, he hasn't had to spend a dime to do it.


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Comments (13)

Posted by Gary Gross | June 10, 2007 8:51 AM

What jumped out most to me in the Stephen Hayes article was who Thompson has surrounded himself with. One of his closest advisors is David McIntosh, the former Indiana representative.

What makes this so important is that, according to Stephen Hayes, McIntosh started the Federalist Society. That tells me that Fred's a true movement conservative.

Posted by RBMN | June 10, 2007 9:02 AM

Re: the Fred factor

Republicans with excellent memories can love the conservative Fred Thompson, just like Republicans with shorter memories can love the conservative Rudy, or the conservative Mitt. What Fred's got going for him: simple conservatism, even for Republicans with no discernable amnesia problems.

Posted by syn | June 10, 2007 9:02 AM

Actions speak greater truth than words.

Perhaps after Fred realised his former vote was a mistake, this is his way of crushing the McCain-Feingold campaign crap.

For all those about to jump I am just proposing a theory not establishing a fact.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | June 10, 2007 9:25 AM

Ed, it will be interesting to see how far F. Thompson can take this viral marketing approach. Perhaps he will actually be the one to create a tangible and responsible campaign that drives the media rather than the MSM driving him. Is this the tipping point of a new era of internet/radio driven campaigns escaping the shackles of old media? H. Dean used it to raise money for the Democrats, but Thompson seems to be cultivating message, response, and money in a well-measured manner.

He's mouthing the right words but I figure many are still projecting their hopes onto Fred! rather than scrutinizing his policy/voting minutia. If he can stay true to his conservative (not necessarily contemporary GOP) rhetoric, I could see lots of followers. I'm actually grateful for his delay because this interminable campaigning immediately following every election detracts that much more time from those elected to perform their primary duties. (Wait, perhaps that's a bad thing.) Anyway, if the campaigning could stop for a few extra months, then maybe Congresscritters would block in time to actually read the legislation they create.

Posted by Bill Faith | June 10, 2007 11:21 AM

I guess the mention in that article of Jeri's past as a Republican strategist just begs for a pun about "working the polls" but I can't come up with one right now. I added an excerpt and link to the Hayes article to my 2007.06.08-09 "Forty Four!" Roundup last night; I'll add a link to your post shortly.

Posted by Bill Faith | June 10, 2007 11:31 AM

btw, if you read it with your Fredhead glasses on like I did (see the excerpts in the roundup I linked above) there's a good  "Jack Kelly explains why Fred will be elected" column at RCP: Silver Lining in GOP's Dark Cloud

Posted by brooklyn | June 10, 2007 12:00 PM

the story continues to be about his rise to popularity...

but the study should be about his record, potential, substance...

especially in context with some other fine candidates running the GOP for POTUS.

thank you.

Posted by syn | June 10, 2007 12:12 PM

I for one am delighted that Republicans have many a fine candidates from which to choose.

Posted by firedup | June 10, 2007 12:53 PM

Republican media strategist Mary Matalin signed on to advise the Thompson effort, and George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush and nephew of the president, endorsed him.


Posted by Carol Herman | June 10, 2007 1:01 PM

Maybe, it pays to compare two parties?

Howie Dean did extremely well in 2004, by utilizing the Net to raise real money.

So you could say the "first" prize goes to Joe Trippi.

And, it was Dean's SUCCESS that produced Wesley Clark. How so? Well, the insiders in the donk's party CONTROL whose gonna get nominated. And, Dean wasn't their choice.

To get rid of Dean the word went out to Cal Pundit's Kevin Drum, to start pumping up Wesley Clark. Which he did! And, boy, did he get whip lashed. The base didn't want Wesley Clark! And, that become apparent when Clark fell off the nominating stage.

This time out? Well, this time out you don't see the array that the donks had in 2004. Today? All you really see is Hillary. Since she OWNS the media! But can they "win it for her?" And, what, exactly does she hold, if you were searching for her "winning card," huh?

It seems Hillary wins in only one enviroment. Where the electorate is POLARIZED. And, the conservatives stay at home. (Hardly likely, given how conservatives were able to give the immigration bill such a knock out punch.) And, ya gotta remember the senators do have an agenda. What they didn't expect? Was the uprising.

I'm still fascinated by Drudge's claim last Sunday night that the senators were advertising that their phones went dead. And, the "outrage" had ceased.

Well, like the doctor says, "the patient died." All that good treatment? Just didn't work its wonders.

As to WHY Fred would approach this thing, through the Net. And, slowly ... has to do with the nature of politics. That's seen lots of people come and go. And, once you're in business IT COSTS MONEY!

So, why not "postpone" the outting? Once "out" Thompson will be heard. He'll be the topic of conversation starting July 4th. And, what can stop this?

I don't think the Saud's are crazy enough to try another "big one." Though, yes, they do finance this crap. But if you look at the JFK "plot" ... what you see is that the maniacs know how to develop the cash trail ... without having the necessary smarts to actually carry anything off. (And, lots of Americans look at the muslems, when they identify them, cross-eyed.) So some of the hostilities frighttens the business men. The one with the money that lets them stay here. (While, yes. They deposit charity into any pot that they think threatenes the Jews.)

So far? It's Bush's gambits to lose.

Since he really doesn't have much credibility left.

And, so far, too? The Realtor for the House of Saud doesn't have much to turn over to the "victors" in Riyadh. Seems wherever you look the SUNNIs have hit the walls. Of gazoo. Of Lebanon. And, even in Irak.

Where, perhaps, questions will lead to HOW Turkey got to invade Irak, while our air force didn't even send up one plane to protect the northern border. (You have no idea, either, about all the fighting and dying.) Which is going on in the palestinian came in Tripoli. The fighting did not really erupt in the other 11 "onclaves."

So, it's not quite a quagmire. Just a standstill.

Can any of this change on a dime?


But Fred Thompson is gonna run on a very simple, and familiar platform: SECURE OUR BORDERS. SHRINK GOVERNMENT. And, keep taxes low.

I guess we could be asking ourselves, how the congress-critters will line up? Why? Because 2008 will require COAT TAILS. No question about it. And, Hillary's hips don't count. It's very possible that the success the Ma & Pa Kettle Show got; will be their ticket to oblivion?

It sure looks like a lot of steam has gone outta' DC.

People who need power to feel important, blew it.

And, that means there's more than one thing set to change, ahead.

We'd be nowhere without the Internet.

But this was equally true back in the 1800's. When the steam engine brought America to a place it had not gone before. Done with steel. And, railroads. And, private enterprise.

Which brings ya back to Fred Thompson's simple message. Will it carry the day? (I think he'll come close. I think the contest will be between Guiliani and ONE OTHER MAN. Fred Thompson? Could be. And, the other? MItt Romney.)

Once Fred comes in, it won't feel like a short journey to 2008.

By the way? Bush can save his invitations. Nobody's gonna wanna visit him in the White House. Nobody's gonna want his "advice."

If you notice; the same's true about Plains, Georgia.

Just because a man was president doesn't mean much if he hasn't got a solid reputation to go along with it.

Well, what about Bill Clinton? Well, wouldn't be the first time men get embarassed when someone calls it to their attention "that there fly is open."

Oh, I guess we could also bet if Hillary decides to "devote herself to NY." (And, again. This is Guiliani's strength.)

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | June 10, 2007 1:11 PM

RE: firedup (June 10, 2007 12:53 PM)

Exactly. A kiss of death?

The path to the White House leads away from any Bushes, not towards them. Also, if Matalin is advising GWBush now, then Fred! better reconsider his team... or do the opposite of what she says.

Posted by jaeger51 | June 10, 2007 2:56 PM

Someone would be very very smart to use the philosophy of Reagan rather than the philosophy of Bush and McCain and Guiliani et al...and even smarter to stick with it once elected. Smart to be a real Republican, and try to shrink govt., lower taxes and secure the borders. Smart to use our military powers to defeat our enemies and think America first rather than what's good for foreigners. Hopefully Fred is that smart. If so, he will win two terms. And hopefully for us, he won't say one thing and do another once elected like GWB.

Posted by RBMN | June 10, 2007 5:10 PM

Sometimes endorsements are just people putting their money on a favorite horse.

And by favorite horse, I mean someone who might be hiring a lot of Republican policy wonks in about a year and a half.

You can't always correlate endorsement with agreement. Sometimes it's just handicapping a horse race, hoping for the winning ticket.