'I'm 90% Sure Fred's Running'

Friends say Fred Thompson is moving closer to announcing for the Republican nomination for President and is expected to make a formal announcement this summer.

Yesterday I asked an old time friend and advisor to Thompson about what Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times editor (and longtime Thompson friend) Tom Griscom’s told me last month. Griscom had told me that he felt the former Volunteer State senator was leaning about “4 to 5 on a scale of 10” toward running." The reaction was, “I’d say he’s 90% toward running as of today.”

HUMAN EVENTS also learned that, in late March, Thompson held a meeting at his McLean, Va., home with a handful of longtime friends to discuss whether a race for the Republican nomination for President was doable. Among the questions raised were if this is the right time for a bid by the 64-year-old attorney and television actor, whether a campaign would be too big a sacrifice for Thompson and his family, and if there was the necessary time to cobble together the campaign structure and raise the big dollars necessary to compete with long-running rivals such as Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain (a close friend of Thompson and someone the Tennessean campaigned strongly for in the 2000 presidential race). Thompson also reportedly voiced concerns at the March gathering at his home that a campaign of his own would affect his friendship with the Arizona senator.

The Thompson “kitchen cabinet”, sources told me, all assured the former senator that his concerns should not rule out a race.

Shortly after the session at the Thompson home, speaking dates and key endorsements began to flow in for the still-unannounced presidential hopeful. Today, May 4, Thompson will address the Lincoln Club of Orange County, California, a prestigious group of high-dollar Republican donors; on Thursday, May 24, he is the headliner at the annual Prescott Bush dinner of the Connecticut Republican Party and, as State GOP Chairman Chris Healy told me, “people are kicking the door in to buy tickets.” In Missouri, where Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder last month became the first elected official outside Tennessee to endorse Thompson, a majority of the Republicans in the state House of Representatives led by Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden have weighed in for the star of TV’s “Law and Order” series. In Texas — where much of the Bush financial team has lined up with McCain—more than 60 members of the state legislature as well as State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson have so far endorsed Thompson.