Former Tennessee Senator and current Law and Order star Fred Thompson is pondering a presidential run. Perhaps he is just being coy or perhaps he relishes the attention, but his indecision is creating blogger chatter both hoping for and cringing at the thought of his run for the GOP nomination.
“He has all the skills and face recognition to be a viable candidate right out of the gate,” blogged William Harryman. “And with his Hollywood connections, he could raise a ton of money in a hurry.”
Thompson, a former Watergate prosecutor and a senator from 1994 to 2003, is a trained speaker (Joe Biden might even say articulate) who is often compared to Ronald Reagan: both were actors, both turned to politics later in life, and both were successful at impressing the conservative base and swing voters with an easy manner and sharp rhetoric.
“He’s got a great persona — deep voice, calm demeanor, amiable and authoritative,” wrote Kathy. “He could look at the White Flag Caucus and tell them to sit down and shut up — and they’d do it. That might even make the moderate Democrats vote for him.”
The growing speculation is proportional to the growing dissatisfaction among conservative voters with their current choices. “That level of unhappiness is largely centered on the lack of a solidly conservative candidate who has a realistic chance at the nomination,” wrote Chris Cillizza in his Washington Post blog, the Fix. “Combine Thompson’s capacity for fundraising in his home state with his star power and his acceptability to social conservatives and you have a package that no other candidate in the field offers.”
Many conservatives see him as the savior in a race currently dominated by Rudy Giuliani, a New Yorker who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights. “If Thompson does decide to enter the GOP field, as a mainstream Southern conservative, he would instantly become the front runner,” said Falcon at Hang Right Politics.
“Plain and simple: he’s a true conservative — through and through,” said Michael Martine. “A large base of the Republican Party has been waiting for a Reagan Republican, and we now have one.”
But not everyone is ready to Hail this Chief just yet. There are many who question if Thompson is anything more than a mirage in a desert of bad choices for the conservative base. “I’m not hearing any substantive political philosophy from Fred Thompson,” worried davecatbone, a Reagan conservative from Cincinnati, in a post entitled “Is Fred Thompson the Right’s Hillary.” “The huge bandwagon that is springing up makes me nervous, because I don’t see the real goods.”
“To Tennesseans and conservative elites, Fred Thompson has enormous name appeal, but I’m not sure that it travels across the nation,” speculated Nashville blogger Sean Braisted. “I’m just not sure he’s the diamond in the rough that conservatives, disillusioned with their current choices, seem to think he is.”
Thompson also has some personal skeletons in his closet. In response to his well-known reputation as a playboy during his time in Washington, Thompson told the Wall Street Journal, “I plead guilty.”
Granted, this is nothing compared to the cemetery of female problems in Giuliani’s closet, but it might be off-putting to some of the religious right. “I think it interesting that Fred’s womanizing is totally disregarded,” blogged C.E. Petro, a Knoxville native. “This puts Fred on the same plane as Rudy and John, whenever we want to discuss the hypocrisy of ‘family values’ within the GOP.”
Still, bloggers on the left seem a bit worried that this pragmatic, calm head of airport security in Die Hard 2 might be exactly the kind of presidential persona Americans want in 2008. “He’s one guy Hillary, Obama and Edwards don’t want to have to debate on TV,” wrote rwallnerny, “because he’s — like Reagan — trained as an actor. As a Democrat, his potential candidacy worries me like no others.”
There is no timetable for a Thompson decision, and because he is not a typical Washington insider he has the luxury of dipping his toes in to test the waters. And lest we forget, his show is also syndicated on TNT a thousand times a week — and they know drama.
Dan Goldberg is a CJR intern.
“He says he hasn’t decided, but who is he kidding?” asked Slublog. “The guy’s been in showbiz long enough to know the value of anticipation, and he’s letting it build.”