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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thompson "not particularly interested in running for president"

A few days ago, I watched an old episode of "Law & Order" that starred senator-turned-actor-turned-presidential candidate Fred Thompson as District Attorney Arthur Branch. In it, he was smart, lively and darkly sarcastic--even though he was only on screen for about five minutes of the hour-long episode, he stole the show.

As the 2008 presidential race began, there was no front runner in the Republican primary that had reasonable policy goals while maintaining a deep, Christian moral conviction. Mitt Romney was stigmatized because he's a Mormon, and because he seemed to flip-flop on abortion and gay marriage; Rudy Giuliani was pro-choice and pro-gay marriage; Mike Huckabee, a former minister, had the necessary Christian credentials, but ridiculous initiatives (ahem, FairTax). Duncan Hunter was popular amongst the leading conservative Christians, but as a congressman practically unknown outside of California, he was at the bottom of the Republican pool.

And so the GOP turned to Thompson, who had recently issued a clever rebuttal to comments made by filmmaker Michael Moore. His overt personality and stage presence was appealing, as was his semi-celebrity status by way of "Law & Order." Plus, as Carpetbagger Report writes, "He’s plenty conservative; he’s never flip-flopped on key issues; and he’s not a member of a religious minority that the GOP base finds offensive. Simply as a matter of process of elimination, this guy should be huge."

Thompson soon left "Law & Order" and entered the presidential race, considered by many to be a viable choice for conservative Christians. But what happened? Contrary to his television persona, Thompson has been remarkably boring at the debates and campaign stops, and never seemed into the race. His poll numbers dropped into the teens as Romney and Huckabee's rose. It was an unexpected turn of events...but now, apparently, they are telling of a larger trend: Thompson has no interest in the race. He said, "I’m not particularly interested in running for president" at a recent campaign stop.

It seemed from the beginning that the GOP was begging Thompson to get involved to satisfy their religious base. And Thompson, being a good soldier, complied. But it's a tough road to the presidency, and for someone not completely into it, the wear and tear can show.

Everything seems to be taking its toll on Thompson. In the polls, he continues to fall in the early states as John McCain gains ground. His campaign is not over, but his stunning admission will go nowhere toward invigorating his base.


Edit: Thompson gave a 17-minute long closing speech in Iowa today in which he explained why the people of the Hawkeye State should vote for him. It is being praised by conservatives as appealing to both the conservative base of the Republican party, and to moderate Democrats as well. Thompson may have some life in him yet...

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