Fred Thompson had left us wide eyed and impatient. He’s been the novelty non-candidate for months now — the starry-eyed crush of the Republican Party. He’s flirted with those left unfulfilled by the current stock of candidates — including pro-choice, pro-illegal immigration and flip flopping Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney, respectively.
The time finally came for Thompson to step into the race — but not before bypassing one more debate session and trading chuckles with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.
“I’m running for President of the United States,” he told Leno late Wednesday night, adding that, “it’s a lot more difficult to get on the Tonight Show than it is to get into a presidential debate.”
After presenting him with a line of humorous bumper stickers (including one with Thompson and Dr. Phil’s faces that read, “I’m not Dr. Phil”), Leno said, “It starts right now.”
Thompson said he didn’t believe in the superficial “rules” regarding when to jump into the race and claimed that “we started around the kitchen table in late March, talking about it, thinking about it, thinking about what kind of world, what kind of country our kids are going to grow up in and how many people have a chance to do something about it and I decided it was time for me to step up.”
Instead of latching onto a conservative outlet like Fox News, Thompson appealed to the moderates through the traditionally liberal outlet of late night comedy. Though Leno pokes fun at Dems too, a Republican declaration on his show was unexpected and added to the unique style of the Thompson run.
Thompson made an appearance for the Republican Fox News debates via commercial break, though, in his first campaign commercial, saying, “Today as before the fate of millions across the world depends on the unity and resolve of the American people.”
Those who’ve held their purse strings back for a ticket to the Thompson show have certainly shown resolve. The “Fredheads” allegiance to this former Senator and “Law and Order” celebrity will be trendy this week, but will Thompson have the stamina to prove himself in big game? With 14 months until the election, he won’t be able to shimmy through the sticky political halls of the campaign unscathed. The web pages of vindictive lefty bloggers, trash talking afternoon pundits and skeptical journalists on the hunt for a spicy story line will chase the Thompson campaign ferociously in coming months.
Republicans dare to hope he is the Reagan conservative missing from the lineup, but his record is not impressively stacked with political feats during his time in the Senate. Though Thompson’s flashed an attractive hand — blogging regularly, chewing Cuban cigars and shrugging off media gossip — many wonder if there’s real substance behind the hype.
The official announcement came via a 14 minute video clip on his official campaign website at midnight last night. He spoke of his range of life experiences from being a teenage husband to practicing law and acting. After stating he intended to run for President, Thompson said, “I feel that I am doing it for the right reasons, I love my country and I’m concerned about its future…I’ve worked for minimum wages, for salaries more than I ever thought I’d make and for everything in between.”
He tapped into the Reagan school of thought, saying, “…our basic rights come from God and not from government.”
Thompson’s long awaited announcement came after two Republican candidates dropped out. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (who, in a recent debate, joked that he was “Thompson — Tommy — not the other one.”) both tossed their presidential bids after low polling and fundraising numbers.
Some have counted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as the potential carrier of Reagan’s legacy, but his second tier status has remained difficult to overcome even after a recent explosion of popularity.
In his announcement video, Thompson touted that his run would be “…essentially…about freedom.” He emphasized the threats facing America’s security from foreign enemies and said a “government that is big enough to do everything for us is powerful enough to do anything to us…”
Thompson steps in as an immediate frontrunner, already pulling significant poll numbers and not far behind leader Mitt Romney. With Thompson’s bid, the race is essentially distilled to a knock out with Giuliani and Romney. Most Republicans have discounted the flailing McCain campaign at this point.
It’s been over ten years since his Senate stint but Thompson displayed that experience as a vital affirmation of his competence to become President.
“In 1994 our conservative principles led us to a comeback and majority control of the Congress,” he said in the video. “Now you don’t want to have to come back from another Clinton victory. Our country needs us to win next year, and I am ready to lead that effort.”
Now that he’s in for real, America can watch and see if Fred Thompson can really hack it. So far, so good.