July 16, 2007

Thompson Building A Winning Hand

Everyone wants to know why Fred Thompson hasn't officially declared his candidacy yet. After all, with Jim Gilmore's departure, the Republicans have an empty podium for the next debate. Why doesn't Fred jump in and start getting tested?

One answer could be that Fred wants to hit the hustings in the top spot -- and that's he's building his coalition carefully before his launch. US News reports that Fred has had some success in getting evangelical groups to consider supporting him, reaching out to one group that could give him instant momentum. At Heading Right, I look at advantages he might have over some of the other GOP candidates, and the strategy of holding cards close to the vest until one gets a winning hand.

UPDATE: The Democrats think Fred has other motivations for his long flirtation:

The “Law & Order” actor and former U.S. senator from Tennessee is delaying his formal entry into the race in part because his current status makes him less of a target and lets other candidates continue to get chewed up. “We’re in no hurry,” one close adviser said mischievously.

But there’s another big reason. If he were to formalize his candidacy beyond its current “testing the waters” status, Friends of Fred Thompson Inc. would have to reveal its contributions and expenses this week.

Thompson’s aides say they will not file such a report, and the Democratic National Committee plans to argue aggressively in coming days that he should. Democratic aides argue that Thompson could be violating campaign finance laws by “ducking” a full filing.

The Thompson campaign organization already voluntarily complies with restrictions meant for declared candidates. They cap all donors at $2300, the limit for the primary race, and they have committed to raising no soft money. They may incorporate as a 527 this month rather than declare as a candidate, which will put them in the same tax status as other candidates.

Otherwise, the complaints sound like sour grapes. No one said that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or anyone else had to declare 22 months before the general election and 12 months before the first primary. They could have all decided to wait until the summer or fall to officially declare their candidacies -- but they would then have had to risk other candidates grabbing momentum away from them.

Obviously, Thompson hasn't worried about that problem, and apparently for good reason. That may make the Democrats and other Republicans irritated by Fred's plan to keep his options open, but they only have themselves to blame.


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Comments (22)

Posted by gbear | July 16, 2007 11:19 AM

Wait Fred wait, then go Fred go!

Posted by Tom Shipley | July 16, 2007 11:19 AM

RFK didn't announce he was running for president until March of 1968.

Now that was late even for back then, but I don't want to see a day when the campaign starts the day after a presidential election.

Posted by vet66 | July 16, 2007 11:23 AM

The left-wing of the democratic party play a poor game of poker. It is unnecessary to hold your cards close to your vest when you cry and whine everytime lady luck deals a bad card.

Interesting that the media hacks refer to Senator Thompson as an actor first and a Senator second. My money, both figuratively and literally, is on Fred Thompson.

I listen to the latest discussion about how much money Obama and Hillary are raising with amusement. Will someone please point out the millions George Soros sunk into the Kerry campaign? Kerry lost in large part to the activities of a bunch of fellow "anchor clankers" who told a different story euphemistically referred to as the inconvenient truth.

p.s. as a "swabbie" myself (1966-1972) I have the highest respect and regard for blue water sailors as well as those in the littoral area of combat ops. Anchors Away!

Posted by Paul Milenkovic | July 16, 2007 12:06 PM

Is Fred Thompson appearing in "Live Free or Die Hard"? I liked him in the original "Die Hard"? Does he have to wait for the movie or his roll on Law and Order to run its course?

Posted by Adjoran | July 16, 2007 1:01 PM

I can't blame Fred for not jumping in yet. The longer he stays "unannounced," the more his campaign seems to assume mythological proportions.

Naturally, the real test will be keeping that momentum once he is official and has to come down to earth with the rest of us, but why hurry? The fact that Democrats are throwing fits about it only confirms it as good strategy.

Posted by BrandonInBatonRouge | July 16, 2007 1:04 PM


Quick correction - Fred wasn't in Die Hard 1. He was the head of Dulles International Airport in Die Hard 2.

Posted by Neo | July 16, 2007 1:18 PM

It's not just the Republicans getting chewed-up. The Democrats should be looking for another candidate as well .. and I don't mean Al "Bear-Man-Pig" Gore.

Frankly, this whole thing of having campaigns that go on forever has to have some blowback. The blowback is that by November, one whole year before the election, we are all going to be sick and tired of the current candidates.

In the "old days", Bobby Kennedy was still trying to win the Democratic nomination when he was kill on June 6, 1968, the night after the California primary. Yes, that is June of the election year.

The FEC should be made to refuse any fund raising till Nov, a year in advance of the election and primaries, and shouldn't pay for activities for any caucus or primary that happens before start until the end of April.

Just like the old Steve Martin line .. "waiter bring me fresh wine" .. we will all be ready for some new candidates by the time that schedule would begin.

Posted by viking01 | July 16, 2007 1:28 PM

RFK didn't have to worry the least about raising campaign money. All he need to do was cut a check of daddy's bootlegging money and keep a damper on brother Teddy's vices.

That, and knowing monetarily the press would give him unlimited free P.R. which might make even angry Hillary (Bubba's trophy wife) jealous.

By keeping a lower profile Thompson helps to neutralize effects of various hit pieces of Chappaqua broom pilot origin the presstitutes at AP and the dinosaur alphabet networks have thrown and will be throwing at him. At least until Hillary and Obama have run out of mud for each other.

Posted by sherlock | July 16, 2007 2:16 PM

I was a landbound electronics tech, not a swabbie, but even I believe it is "anchor's aweigh" - meaning the anchor is off the bottom and we are free of our moorings, not "achors away", which might be assumed to mean the exact opposite!

Posted by jeff | July 16, 2007 3:19 PM

We're still a long way from the first primary and I think Fred Thompson's strategy is spot on. Let the other candidates fatigue themselves, drawn down funding and force them to focus on raising more when it gets tougher and the fruit isn't low hanging, and let all the messages and attacks air out with him on the shoulder watching it unfold.

By the fall most voters will be exhausted with every candidate and will welcome a fresh voice. Thompson gets to be the uncandidate for the moment and he's right to run with it because there is no unringing of the bell after he declares his formal candidacy.

Posted by Bill Faith | July 16, 2007 4:21 PM

"The left-wing of the democratic party" vet66? Like there's another one? The scareder they act of Fred the more I like him. (Not to mention he's the only serious candidate without a yankee accent.) I added an excerpt and link to my 2007.07.16 Decision '08 Roundup.

Posted by roc ingersol | July 16, 2007 4:30 PM

I'd wish Thompson would get in so he can't avoid the debates and the actual campaigning so his supporters can see what kind of candidate they have and not what kind of candidate they think they have.

Posted by calix | July 16, 2007 5:36 PM

I'm not sure if Jeff nailed it or he's exactly wrong. This November there's going to be a lot of people feeling like we've already suffered through one campaign season. Some of them are going to be much more inclined to listen to Thompson because he's a realatively fresh face and voice at that point, but others are going to ignore him because they've already made up their minds or because they're totally sick of politics and aren't going to vote at all.

Posted by Teresa | July 16, 2007 7:12 PM

One thing that worries me about Fred is that everytime I see him now he looks old. In some ways all these LO reruns aren't going to help because people have an image of him in their mind from TV and then when they see him it is kind of shocking.

Posted by Mark | July 16, 2007 8:23 PM

His strategy carries a number of risks. First, people only like to play footsie for so long before they grow tired of the game and start wanting more commitment.

Second, one of the biggest raps against FT is that he is lazy. Sitting on the sidelines doing as little as he can get away with does nothing to counteract that image.

Third, his active opponents have a better chance at getting facetime on the news.

Finally, he runs the risk of appearing to be indecisive.

I could probably think of others, but these will do.

Posted by cjnorris | July 16, 2007 9:06 PM

It appears as though Sen. Thompson, chairing the senate committee that looked
into Clintons' "96 campaign, Knocked the cover off the snake pit. Stired up with a stick
and figured out how to run a campaign
without financial disclosure. What other surprises does he have in store?

Posted by Ray | July 16, 2007 9:08 PM

Every election has the same problem: voter fatigue. Announcing a candidacy too early can be even more of a handicap than entering too late. People get tired of seeing the same faces saying the same things month after month and they eventually start to tune out anything those candidates say.

Fred, by entering much later than the majority of candidates, can avoid some of that vote fatigue and would be able to run a campaign that voters would see as fresh. That could be just the advantage that can win him first the republican ticket and then the Presidency.

I hope that Fred does enter the race and announces his candidacy sometime in late September as that, in my opinion, would be a good time to capitalize on voter fatigue. Also, it would be fun to watch the democrats fall all over themselves trying counter Fred's growing popularity. All the negative campaigning that the democrats would engage in would just add to Fred's popularity as people don't react well to negative campaigning.

Posted by cjnorris | July 16, 2007 9:30 PM

One Question "How much money does
Fred have? I know we've given a hundred.
Republican fundraising sure seems flat.

Posted by Miss Ladybug | July 16, 2007 10:41 PM

Just a thought...

Given that Petraeus is going to be giving a full reporting on the status of "The Surge" on September 15th, given how the Dems are just chomping at the bit to discount anything good he'll have to say, how would Thompson announcing soon after Petraeus' reporting affect the news cycle???

Posted by cjnorris | July 17, 2007 12:28 AM

I don't want to over step my bounds, but which candidate is killing everyone else with info-war management? unannounced.

Posted by Papa Ray | July 17, 2007 9:48 AM

This nonsense leading up to nominations has become a farce.

No matter if it is two years or 6 months.

The public, you know, the average joe, doesn't even know about all this crap. He watches his movies, goes to his sports activities, has his party's with his buds, sleeps when he is not working, works until he could give a crap about politics and then has to try and support and please his wife, girlfriend, kids or parents.

And the average American Jane is not much better, until they get very much older. Then they have even more responsibilites and worries but at least have more of a sense of commitment for the safety of their children or loved ones than the American Joes.

The very small amount of Americans that are represented here and on other blogs might talk alot or even be really involved in this stupid process that America has adopted....but...even if they won't admit it, their voices, efforts and money won't make a tinker's damn difference when it comes to Jane and Joe Blow Americans, when he or she votes.

The only real winners with all of the money spent is the media and service organizations.

It is a shame that most Americans do not learn from their history but tend to just repeat all the mistakes of the past.

Contribute your money to your kid's college fund, not to some politician.

Papa Ray
West Texas (Northern Mexico)

Posted by Jeff | July 17, 2007 10:50 AM

Calix said"
"I'm not sure if Jeff nailed it or he's exactly wrong."

hopefully if it's not one then it's the other :)