July 27, 2007

Thompson's Philosophical Campaign

John Solomon does a better job in today's Washington Post in reporting on the non-campaign campaign strategy used thus far by Fred Thompson than yesterday's attempt to use his law-practice client list as a political football. Solomon notices that, far from the attempt to paint Thompson as substanceless, the advocate for federalism has been offering a blizzard of policy positions all year long -- and that might have a price later in the campaign:

On the Internet sites where conservatives gather to read and chat each day, Fred D. Thompson, the as-yet-unannounced Republican presidential candidate, has been laying out his positions on dozens of issues with little public notice and plenty of rhetorical flair. ...

The musings seem to constitute Thompson's early effort at assuring the core conservatives of the Republican Party that he is one of them -- despite his run-ins with the bloc as a U.S. senator who supported campaign finance reform and opposed federal limits on malpractice lawsuits and attorneys' fees.

"They were wildly popular," said Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, where three dozen commentaries by Thompson have been posted since he started testing the presidential waters in March. "It was a great way to introduce himself. He had just the right balance of red meat and substance to feed a conservative audience -- at least as an opener."

Thompson's writings could prove problematic in a general election, where he would have to win over moderate voters.

"Today, everything is out there forever, and you don't have any luxury of claiming there was a misunderstanding," said Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist. "If a campaign is putting some of these comments out there, they are going to have to live with them for the rest of the campaign."

The popular knock on Thompson has been his reluctance to engage in the primary battle, but that really hasn't been the case. He hasn't participated in the debates as a result of delaying his entry, but anyone who has watched those events do not confuse them with sober discussions of policy in any case. Thompson has steadily analyzed current events, both in the domestic and foreign-policy realm, and offered his position on various solutions. He may be the most engaged candidate on policy, even though he is not officially a candidate at all.

As Solomon reports, such position papers could create problems for Thompson down the road, at least in a general sense. Just as with bloggers, subsequent events can prove spot analyses wrong. For bloggers, that's par for the course, but in a national election, such errors can get magnified quickly. Those publications never disappear in the new online world, and anyone can eventually find and link material that creates the impression of inconsistency or error.

Fred has not seemed terribly concerned about this potential landmine. Primarily, he has written about his federalist principles, and in that he has remained consistent. None of the positions he has taken will rankle the base, and some of them might even appeal to libertarian moderates. In essence, the essays have bolstered the image of a man comfortable enough in his own skin to give a straightforward account of himself and allow the chips to fall where they may.

Solomon also gives a balanced report on the shakeup in Thompson's team, although along with most people, he probably gives it more thought than it's worth. The shift of Tom Collamore was not unexpected by the campaign team, according to a source close to the campaign. The loss of the oppo research director may have been more of a surprise, but it's not a meltdown situation. The Thompson campaign had always looked to gain more high-profile leadership before its official launch, and this moves them in that direction. Interestingly, Solomon doesn't mention the addition of Spencer Abraham, which has produced some criticism from conservatives concerned about Abraham's previous positions on immigration.

The Thompson campaign will need to get itself started soon, though. Thus far they have successfully flown under the radar while building a substantial amount of support, but they risk allowing outsiders to define the campaign while Fred stays on the sidelines. The essays have done their job, but Republicans need to see how Fred campaigns before he can take over the primary race.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (12)

Posted by Bill Faith | July 27, 2007 5:16 PM

Speaking of FDT leaving a record of what he believes on the web, he currently has a great post on Federalism at the top of the I'mWithFred blog. Offhand I can think of about 9 SCOTUS justices and 535 congresscritters who could learn from it. I excerpted and linked.

Posted by Country Squire | July 27, 2007 8:08 PM


“Fred has not seemed terribly concerned about this potential landmine.” A possible presidential candidate putting out position papers for public consumption is a potential landmine in your view? I’m surprised at your take on this. I wish all of these candidates would do the same and then stay home instead of wasting our time for two years with these ridiculous pseudo-campaigns. Newt hit the nail on the head at the National Review Institute earlier this year when commenting about the length of these campaigns he said “This… is…. stupid”.

Fred’s doing just fine. I don’t think he needs to be concerned about “allowing outsiders to define the campaign”. They have not been able to figure him out so far and considering how much ground they have given up to Fred, without much effort on his part, I would suggest it is the formal candidates that need to be worried.

Posted by Ray | July 27, 2007 9:19 PM

I think Fred is doing a great job of keeping the left wing busy running around in circles as they try to torpedo a campaign that doesn't even exist yet. Go Fred, go!

"He hasn't participated in the debates as a result of delaying his entry, but anyone who has watched those events do not confuse them with sober discussions of policy in any case."

LOL That's really good! It's also very true.

Posted by Rose | July 27, 2007 10:16 PM

Nevertheless, having personally witnessed him call Bill Clinton's perjury a "TRIVIAL MATTER", this June, 2007, I remain determined, especially with more and more judges overturning powerful election results as "UNCONSTITUTIONAL", I demand a candidate who respects what Law and Justice are SUPPOSED to be.

Left of Robert Dole and Gerald Ford just isn't going to cut it.

Posted by Deborah | July 27, 2007 10:36 PM

Serious questions need to be asked about his philosophy of hiring the man he did for his campaign manager. Shocking move, imo. Makes you realize that there are going to be many surprises from this man who has yet entered the race.


Posted by Thomas Jackson | July 27, 2007 10:52 PM

One suspects people like Deb can't name the campaign managers of any other candidate nor can most of the public. What does matter is their record and proven stance on the issues.

This is why the mobys and trolls can't ask substantive issues. It was great fun to watch the dhimmierat deabtes and see the crowd rspond not to the substantive but to trival matters like "I felt he cared about me." Oh heavens to Betsy I do need a candidate that cares!

I want one who has solutions and a bulldog determination to focus on the major issues and ignore the trivial.

Posted by muckdog | July 28, 2007 12:35 AM

I think Fred is just waiting for the field to narrow a bit and some of the fringe candidates to drop out. In addition, at that time some of the leaders will have taken some hits.

Fred can then ride in on a white horse.

Posted by Deborah | July 28, 2007 7:24 AM

Thomas, straight from the liberals play book, insult people instead of arguing on the facts. :-(

Who a man chooses as his closest adviser is a major concern when he is wants the Presidency. Spencer Abraham, according to the article I linked to in my previous post, has close ties to Islamic leaders who want to endanger America. Why Fred would make such a choice is a serious question I'd like him to answer.

His vote for the McCain/Feingold legislation is another major issue that needs serious consideration. I think it is a serious blow to our constitutional right to free speech. I'm with Rose and want a candidate who respects our laws.

That said, enough people whose opinion I respect say he is the man for the job and I will consider his bid for the office if he chooses to run.

Posted by FedUp | July 28, 2007 10:38 AM

I hate to say it, but there isn't one declared candidate on either side that I would vote for. It goes without saying that the democrats are more worried about votes than any substantial platform (feel free to change your mind when the wind changes) and the republicans don't have anyone with a clear vision to move us back as the number one country on the planet. I blame the rebulican party for not standing by the president and growing some guts! Who wants to support a wishy-washy person? If you can't standup to the idealogues in Congress, how the heck are you going to stand up against the meanies in Iran, N. Korea, Syria etc.

Posted by Rose | July 29, 2007 2:37 AM

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at July 27, 2007 10:52 PM

A good campaign manager's identity shouldn't ORDINARILY MATTER - depends on the IMAGE the CANDIDATE is trying to project.

His choice of campaign manager which undermines that image is VITAL to the VOTER.

Fred managed McCain's 2000 Presidential campaign - still th inks McCain would make a great President (really so barfing over THAT) - and now picks another RINO for his own manager.
Mentored by Howard Baker, he also aided Nixon's defense team, and supported and SUSTAINED Bill Clinton in his most desperate hour.

Yes, who he picks for campaign manager NOW matters. IF he had picked a NON-DESCRIPT but efficient person, NO IMPRESSION by the job hiring would have impacted Fred.

THIS is an impact he begged for. He is TELLING US vital information about himself - about who he feels comfortable with.

But Fred chose to reveal himself in his pick - at a time when the resonance of what type people Fred will pick SHOULD HE GET IN OFFICE is CRITICAL.

The man who picked this manager at such a critical time in his CAMPAIGN is NOT the man who will end by picking JUDGE NOMINEES that I will care to see be ratified.

It's just yet another CONSISTENTLY bad choice, that merely CONFIRMS my opinion of his decision to save Bill Clinton's bacon.

You can dismiss it if you please for yourself - but when you dismiss the misgivings of those you EXPECT to vote with you to defeat the DIMS....
You deserve what you get.

I was never one to be impressed with Dah Ahnold Man's CANDIDACY, and I am totaly underwhelmed by his job performance.

I'm far LESS impressed by Fred, than even by Dah Ahnold Man - if that is possible.

Posted by Rose | July 29, 2007 2:42 AM

and ignore the trivial.

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at July 27, 2007 10:52 PM

Oh, yeah, "TRIVIAL" - like Bill Clinton's PERJURY in a personal injury case.

TRIVIAL - the right of the ELITIST to abuse their "lessers", like Bill Clinton and Toady Chappaquiddick Kennedy.

Oh, yeah.

Gagging and barfing.

Posted by Rose | July 29, 2007 2:48 AM

Posted by: Deborah at July 28, 2007 7:24 AM


Great Posts, Deborah. Really good points.