Republicans face a paradox coming into 2008. Our strongest candidates, polling-wise, are men that don't always represent the core values of the Republican Party. Republicans need to be careful, because spending too much time looking for the perfect candidate might distract us from finding a good one. Democrats who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 found that out the hard way. That being said, the idea of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson running for president is appealing on many levels. First off, he is not a career politician and has lived a full and succesfull life as a lawyer, politician, and actor. The comparisons to Reagan are obvious (though Thompson probably is a much better actor). I've done some quick research (i.e. Wikipedia) and here are his stats:
- Assistant US Attorney, 1969-1972
- Campaign Manager for Howard Baker, 1972
- Co-Cheif Council for Senate Watergate Committee, 1973-1974
- Toppled Tennesse Gov. Roy Blanton by exposing his corruption of selling pardons, 1977
- Actor in such movies as "Cape Fear," "In The Line of Fire," & "Hunt For Red October" (IMDB here)
- Elected United States senator from Tennessee, filling the term of Vice-President Al Gore by defeating six-term Rep. Jim Cooper, 1994
- Re-elected to US Senate, defeating attorney Houston Gordon, 1996
- Chairman, Senate Committe on Governmental Affairs
- National Co-Chairman, John McCain For President 2000
- Actor, playing D.A. Arthur Branch on the NBC hit "Law & Order," 2002-present
- Unofficial shepard of the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the US Supreme Court
Pretty ecclectic, one that I think can resonate with America. His acting career gives him automatic name recognition, his political career gives him knowledge of power at its highest, and his career as an attorney gives him credibility as a professional. It seems his candidacy is being unofficially explored by a cadre of Tennessee Republicans past and present lead by ex-Senate Howard Baker (perhaps looking to become secretary of state), Rep. Zach Wamp, and state GOP Chairman Bob Davis. I would not be suprised if Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist weren't lurking somewhere behind this as well.
Here are some interesting articles:
Thompson has told allies in recent days that he is exploring seriously a bid for president in 2008 in response to what he has described as strong encouragement from Republicans dissatisfied with the current slate of candidates. Thompson said one reason he is hesitant about running is his longtime friendship with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Thompson was one of only four Republican senators to endorse McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign and was an important ally in McCain’s effort to pass campaign-finance reform in 2002.
. . .
Thompson, who retired from the Senate in 2002 to resume his acting career, has boosted his political profile lately. He is leading an effort to raise money for Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s legal defense fund and has called on President Bush to pardon Libby, who was convicted this week of making false statements and obstructing justic
One senior Republican strategist dismissed talk that McCain, Romney and Giuliani have too great a head start in fundraising and organization for Thompson to catch up. The strategist said Thompson has an opening since many Republicans have concerns about the other three hopefuls. Giuliani has raised concern among conservative Republicans because of positions in favor of abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.
Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics adds this:
Personally, I'm not so sure. Thompson may have a shot for two reasons. First, experience is generally overrated. Two of the top-tier candidates on the Democratic side (Obama & Edwards) currently have eight years in the Senate between them - the same as Thompson. Second, persona matters a tremendous amount in modern politics and there are very few people who project more of an aura of strength and seriousness than Fred Thompson. It's hard to envision him standing on a stage debating Obama, Clinton, or Edwards and coming away looking like a lightweight.
I think the biggest challenge for Thompson is meeting the desire requirement. Is this something he really wants, and is he really ready to put forth the effort it will take to keep up the grueling schedule of a presidential bid over the next twenty months? However popular Thompson may be with the party faithful, his entry into the race would be light years away from a coronation. He'd have to fight hard for it, especially against his good pal John McCain.
I suspect that's the main reason why Thompson won't run, even though I'd like to see him in the race. I'd also like to see Al Gore jump in on the Democratic side, though I doubt he will. At this point, it's already a complete circus, so the more the merrier.
Knoxville News-Sentinel has more, too.
This is probably another long-shot idea that won't end up meaning anything. My mind has gone in circles when looking at the GOP field. At one point since New Year, I have convinced myself to support Newt then McCain then Gilmore then Romney and then Giuliani. And I think my quandry is one shared by many Republicans. While Thompson wasn't America's greatest senator, his career is strong enough and independent enough that nobody could call him a Bush lacky but it would be hard for conservatives to dismiss him as a "RINO." He seems just enough to the right to bring in the right wing, and just enough to the center to bring in centrists, especially as the Democrat Party continues to be bullied and drag left by the MoveOn crowd.
Who knows? We've had an actor elected before (Reagan) and since (Schwarzenegger); why not now - and Thompson is sound, there will be less sacrifices the party faithful will have to make in casting their ballot for him.