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January 2, 2008

A Fred Surge?

Some CapQ readers have pointed to the latest numbers from Zogby in Iowa as a harbinger of a Fred Thompson surprise for tomorrow's caucuses. In their daily tracking poll, conducted by traditional telephone surveys rather than on-line polls, Zogby shows a significant bump in support over the last three days -- enough to tie Fred with John McCain for third place:

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, gained a bit on Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. Huckabee cumulative three-day tracking total equaled 28% support among likely Republican caucus–goers, while Romney moved up from 25% to 26% support. Arizona Sen. John McCain remained in third place at 12%, tied with former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who has seen a late-breaking surge. Among Democrats, 5% were yet undecided just three days ahead of the caucuses. Among Republicans, 6% were yet unsure.

Huckabee’s support spans all age groups, but he is particularly strong among voters under age 30.

Anything's possible. The Des Moines Register poll released yesterday showed a hint of the same trend, putting Thompson at 9%. Thompson has campaigned hard in December, doing the kind of retail politicking he should have begun in September or before, and it could pay off -- especially with conservatives still feeling at loose ends with the current front-runners.

However, this seems like a thin reed of hope. Zogby has a reputation more for outliers than for accuracy. Even if Zogby has this right, it still only puts Thompson third in a state where he has focused, and where Rudy Giuliani barely campaigned at all. A third place helps John McCain because he already has strength in New Hampshire and Michigan, while Fred only has any demonstrable strength in South Carolina.

David Limbaugh spoke for most Fredheads on Monday when he tapped his watch, figuratively speaking:

That leaves us with Fred. I must confess that Fred is the only one I don't have major reservations about -- apart from his electability. Yes, I worry that he supported McCain-Feingold and that he might not be a strong supply-sider. But on most issues, he seems reliably conservative and appears to have a solid and strong character. I do believe that with Fred, we know what we are getting.

I find his lack of "fire in the belly" refreshing. He strikes me as one of the few presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan whose primary motivation is not personal aggrandizement but rather serving and leading the nation in very troubled and dangerous times. I see him as almost being drafted into this project, and his refusal to drool publicly over the prospect of becoming the most powerful man in the world is positively delightful.

That said, he needs to make a more convincing case to the voters, which will require a greater display of enthusiasm that he views these as both perilous and promising times and that he is the best man, overall, to navigate the ship of state through these times.

So, Fred, please, as distasteful as it may be to you, it's time to step up and prove you want it. Time is short.

I like the philosophical, thoughtful approach that Thompson brought to this campaign. More than anyone else in this race, even than Barack Obama, he held out the tantalizing possibility that the presidential campaign could consist of more than zingers and cute jingles. He exuded gravitas, and his unpolished demeanor seemed a refreshing change, as did his obvious distaste for the sillier aspects of campaign protocol.

Unfortunately, along with that came a lack of apparent energy from the campaign itself. Fred didn't get out and talk with people until December. We heard that Thompson had busied himself with fundraising and teambuilding. We don't know the fundraising totals for the Thompson campaign yet, but we do know that they ran out of money in Iowa, so he couldn't have been all that successful in that arena, either. They got in late, and just seemed lost.

And the biggest shame of that is that Thompson could still be the unity candidate. Given his track record on federalism, Thompson offered the complete conservative package -- smaller government, lower taxes and spending, pro-life, hard as nails on terrorism and only slightly less so on immigration, and the ability to charge life into the Reagan alliance that supports these ideals. He has been remarkably consistent, and the only real detriment would be his lack of executive experience and his inability to put together a real campaign.

Iowa voters may give him an extension on the latter. If he comes in third, he needs to hit the ground running in South Carolina and Michigan -- and show us something more than what we've seen the last four months.


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» Fred Out -- To Endorse McCain? from Rhymes With Right
That's the word from Politico. Several Republican officials close to Fred Thompson痴 presidential campaign said they expect the candidate will drop out of the race within days if he finishes poorly in Thursday痴 Iowa caucus. Thompson痴 campaign, which las... [Read More]

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