Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, FRED! — Rick Moran @ 7:19 am

The Republican race for the presidential nomination continues to surprise most inside the beltway observers who still have no idea how exactly to describe “The Fred Phenomena.” Recent polls only highlight the difficulty in analyzing what has now gone from a Thompson boomlet to a full blown prairie fire sweeping across the broad spectrum of Republican voting blocs and scrambling the race at the top

The Times-Bloomberg poll has Rudy in the lead with 27% and Thompson closing fast at 21%. McCain is sinking, down to 12% (amidst rumors that is having trouble raising money) with Mitt Romney treading water at 10%. If conservatives had any notion that McCain was a better choice than the more moderate Guiliani or Romney, the forthcoming entrance of Fred Thompson into the race has probably destroyed what little conservative support the Arizona Senator had left. Clearly, Fred is rising at the expense of McCain - at the moment.

The Rasmussen poll released yesterday is even more shocking. It shows the undeclared, barely started campaign of the former Tennessee Senator locked in a dead heat with Rudy Guiliani who has been running for President since last November. Each candidate receives 24% in the latest survey with McCain, losing half his support since January, at just 11% and tied with Romney.

Some of the internals of that Rasmussen poll are interesting. Thompson’s favorable/unfavorable rating is a stellar 59-14. Contrasted with McCain’s own tumbling approval ratings in his own state (just 47% view him favorably), this spells real trouble for not only McCain but the rest of the field as well.

The real question is will those numbers hold up once Thompson gets it in gear and begins to campaign in earnest. Right now, the Tennessean is something of a cipher. He has promised a different kind of campaign, one that uses the Internet more with less emphasis on personal appearances and other traditional campaign tactics. Judging by how it has worked so far, one could only call his strategy a success.

But not so fast. Limiting his speeches out on the hustings may leave Fred wide open to charges that he is ducking the voters in favor of an electronic campaign where he can carefully script his “appearances” on websites and op-ed pages. By limiting his exposure, he continues to be all things to all Republicans. While he has not done or said anything really controversial yet, once he is forced to come out with specifics on Iraq, the budget, taxes, immigration, and the War on Terror, people are going to start disagreeing with him.

And this is where getting up close and personal with primary voters is vitally necessary. Very few people are going to agree with everything you say and stand for. The test of Thompson’s strength as a candidate will come when we can determine how many people will still vote for him despite their disagreements with him on individual issues. And while there are many ways voters make that determination, it is very important that they see the candidate in the flesh so that they can judge for themselves how trustworthy he is or how he handles adversity.

It’s clear voters won’t find that information out via the internet. But Fred is smart in not rushing out on to the campaign trail just yet. There’s plenty of time for him to flesh out his on-line personae and fill in some of the blanks by writing and occasionally venturing out to address friendly audiences. It has worked so far. Why change it?

Will there be a drop off in support once he begins to campaign in earnest and people get to know him better? I would guess that his negatives will no doubt rise slightly. There isn’t an American politician alive today with negative ratings that are so low. But Fred’s challenge will be to move beyond the 24% support he currently enjoys and start building a majority coalition that can bring him the nomination.

For that, he will have to reach out to Guiliani and Romney supporters and give them a reason to support him beyond the fact that he is a conservative. He must broaden his appeal beyond the south and west and begin to compete in the Midwest and northeast. Romney is still far ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire. Victories in those two early contests will give the former Massachusetts governor some real momentum going into the pivotal contest in South Carolina and the National Primary Day a week later.

In fact, Fred may be eschewing competing in some of those early primaries and caucuses in order to concentrate on the January 29th contest in Florida. He already has begun a fundraising operation in the Sunshine State and there has been speculation that Jeb Bush may give him a hand - perhaps not publicly but urging some of his moneymen and supporters to help Thompson out. Winning Florida would give Fred some momentum going into South Carolina 4 days later (where he hopes to finish off McCain if he’s still in the race) and would set him up beautifully for some serious delegate harvesting on National Primary Day on February 5 where 20 states with half the US population will go to the polls.

With such a front loaded primary schedule, Thompson still has some ground to make up despite his unorthodox campaign. I suspect the money issue will begin to surface in the fall as the candidates get serious about paid media in the early primary states. Viral internet ads will help Thompson, I’m sure. But he will still need to try and compete over the airwaves if he hopes to do well.

If nothing else, Thompson’s “Front Porch” campaign and his subsequent meteoric rise in the polls may change the way candidates run for President in the future.

But only if he wins.


Ken Vogel in Politico has news of a whispering campaign against Thompson by other candidates seeking to undermine his claim to being a conservative lion.

It sounds to me like they’re reaching when trying to tar Fred with the “trial lawyer” moniker as well as digging into his client list when he was a lobbyist. Thompson’s experience in government as a staff lawyer on the Watergate Committee and in the Department of Justice more than outweighs any attempts to portray him as some kind of shady Washington insider.

Where his opponents may have more success is in pointing to Thompson’s support for McCain-Feingold, a position he regrets now but at the time, he was one of the bill’s biggest boosters. I don’t know how much traction that charge will have but it bears watching.


  1. He may be a mystery to some at this point, but the bigger mystery in this race has to be Obama on the left.

    Comment by SlimGuy — 6/13/2007 @ 8:31 am

  2. Thompson is playing the election smartly. The electorate both left and right, based on polling, are demonstrating a disgust with the inside the beltway mentality which is what will ultimately doom McCain. The Conservative base is not wholly sold on Guiliani due to his social liberalism nor on Romney. This leaves Thompson. Thompson, like a good movie, has shown the electorate a very interesting “movie trailer” and has the audience wanting to see more. By not showing the whole movie, it captures the imagination of the audience/electorate who start picturing something they have not seen or start inserting what they would like to see. Hopefully, the whole movie doesn’t disappoint.
    Another factor which in all of this is the surprising early beginning of the 08 campaign. It seems to have created an already “shot your wad” mood with the electorate towards the candidates. Thompson could use this to his advantage. He is seeing what the electorate is gravitating to and can them massage/polish his message to appeal to them. He has also learned that the Internet can garner attention and raise money much like Dean did in 04. In the early season, lots of money and large staff is not needed.

    Comment by Hector — 6/13/2007 @ 8:41 am

  3. Romney’s abortion stance in McCain’s spotlight…

    Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign issued a stinging attack on GOP presidential rival …

    Trackback by Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator — 6/13/2007 @ 9:11 pm

  4. Kenneth Vogel is an extremely lazy reporter. His article on the FEC nominee today reflects his laziness.

    Comment by CajunKate — 6/13/2007 @ 9:14 pm

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