Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Politics — Rick Moran @ 1:58 pm

In the early days of American politics, no man would dare openly run for President of the United States, zig zagging across the country trying to drum up support. It was considered unseemly and self-aggrandizing for a politician to be seen grasping for power in such a naked way.

So the putative candidate would run what was commonly known as a “Front Porch Campaign” where party leaders and supporters from across the country would show up at the candidate’s home and appear to plead with him to accept their support. The candidate, humble and diffident, would gratefully acknowledge their activities on his behalf and usually mouth some platitudes about some issue or give a stem winding, patriotic oration about America . Of course, the more important the party leader (or his representative), the bigger what passed for a 19th century feeding frenzy by the press. It was in this way that the American people became acquainted with the major candidates.

It was all a political Kabuki dance. Everyone knew that the candidate was dying to be President. The 1896 race between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan was a case in point.

While Bryan was on the hustings, making more than 600 speeches (If there was a man in American political history more in love with his own voice, I am unaware of him.), McKinley, after locking up the nomination appeared dormant, sitting at home entertaining Republican party luminaries looking for all the world as if he couldn’t really care if he became President. Meanwhile, a shady operator by the name of Mark Hanna was generously spreading money around he raised from his big business friends who were absolutely terrified of Bryan’s populist campaign and most especially his advocacy of basing the dollar on both a gold and silver standard (”You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”).

McKinley ended up winning the election by allowing Bryan an open field to scare the beejeebees out of just about everyone except his farm/labor base. And that points up one of the oddities in politics; a sitting target is harder to hit than a moving one.

Senator Fred Thompson has developed a strategy so at odds with that of his rivals in the Republican race for President that it may be studied very carefully by future campaigns for lessons in how to win a nomination. At the moment, Thompson is third in national polls trailing Mayor Rudy Guiliani and Senator McCain and leading former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. But the former Tennessee Senator isn’t even an official candidate yet. Just this past Friday, he formed a finance committee to raise money for his campaign. But he has yet to spend any money on advertising. He has precious few paid staff members. And his organization is light years behind those of his main rivals.

While the front runners and also-rans have been criss crossing the country and frantically working the phones trying to raise money, Thompson has set himself down on his ole’ front porch, relaxing on the settee writing a bit, blogging some, and occasionally venturing out to give a speech to the faithful. He has used the internet to generate a “buzz” about his campaign - much like sophisticated marketers today use the net to spread the word about a new product. He has no official website. But articles like this one, talking about the Senator and his campaign serve the purpose of circulating his name and getting people to think about him.

Of course, it helps that Thompson has been appearing on television for years as the no nonsense DA in NBC’s Law and Order. But in establishing a presence on the web and fleshing out his ideas through some very well placed op-eds designed to give him maximum exposure to conservative audiences, Thompson has emerged as bona fide conservative alternative to the front runners.

Thompson will not participate in this Tuesday’s Republican debate in New Hampshire. A pity, that. But no matter how you look at it, Thompson is now ready to take his campaign from his front porch into the living rooms of the American people. How he handles that transition will say much about his abilities as well as how far he might go in the race for the nomination.

1 Comment

  1. Thompson also does radio commentary for ABC radio and his opinion pieces show up on Townhall. And I do have a Thompson 08 sticker on my car. Sorry to hear about your troubles. Hope all works out. I for one would miss your site.

    Comment by rockdalian — 6/3/2007 @ 9:00 pm

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