Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, FRED!, Politics — Rick Moran @ 12:44 pm

Fred Thompson’s campaign is in trouble.

Not that the former Tennessee Senator has made any killer gaffes or tragic mistakes. He hasn’t. Thompson is suffering from that inside the beltway syndrome that pushes a potential candidate to enter the race and then mercilessly tries to tear him down once he’s in. Beltway insiders like Dick Morris have positively skewered Thompson for everything from his “trophy wife” trying to run the campaign to his curious habit of constantly clearing his throat

Fred is also suffering from comparisons to Reagan which were inevitable but unfair. And his laid back style on the stump seems to be eliciting a laid back reaction from voters - they like him but are perplexed by his seeming lack of passion.

And slowly, like a leaking boat, Thompson’s once climbing poll numbers have started to go south. And not just in the national polls but state by state, Thompson has seen his percentages slipping.

He is currently behind Huckabee in New Hampshire with 5% of the vote. And he’s currently 4th in South Carolina, a state he led less than a month ago.

Face it Fred Heads; Thompson needs a boost, a spark - something - or he’s going to be out of the race early. Part of it is certainly the fact that the major punditry has already dismissed him as “dumb,” or lackadaisical,” or just plain “lazy.” But part of it is Thompson’s doing as well. He has been too cerebral, too remote. His campaign has failed to give off any heat, relying instead on the candidate’s folksiness and star quality. That worked for a while. But once people really began to take a look at him, what they saw didn’t impress as much as it raised questions about whether he really wanted the job or not.

I happen to think of all the major candidates in both parties, Thompson is running the most thoughtful campaign. His positions are fleshed out with some real meat on them - unlike the sugar coated cereal burgers offered up as ideas by his counterparts and adversaries. If you listen closely, there is coherence and logic to his arguments about federalism and limited government. And I like his realism on foreign policy in that he seems not to be beholden to either the neocon or the more traditional Republican camps. There is some nuance in his formulations about the greater Middle East and what our policy should be.

All of this would play very well if Thompson were running for Chief Policy Wonk. But he’s not. He’s running for the Presidency of the United States. And American voters not only like to see a candidate’s mind on display, they want to know what is in his soul as well. So far, Fred has proved unwilling or incapable of reaching out and connecting with people on an emotional level. And time is growing short for him to do so.

One area he could connect with part of the base would be on social issues. But here again, Thompson prefers to frame the issues in the much broader context of his case for increased federalism. On abortion:

Questioned about his views on domestic issues, Thompson repeatedly cited or alluded to his belief in federalism, at times with skill. Of course, on abortion and gay marriage such deference to states and localities may cause problems. On the former, especially, Thompson offered a stark reminder that he would prefer not to see abortion banned but rather to revert to the pre-Roe v. Wade model, when states decided their abortion laws. “No,” Thompson flatly replied, shaking his head when asked if he could run on the GOP platform that calls for a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would place unborn children under the protection of the 14th Amendment. Of course, Thompson’s less than orthodox views on the abortion issue are mitigated given his opponents’ views (past and present) on the topic.

This is almost a libertarian view of the abortion issue and the way Thompson has chosen to frame the issue does not sit well with those who see abortion as a defining matter for Republicans. His similar views on gay marriage are a little closer to the mainstream of GOP thought in that there is a sizable minority of the GOP who would like to see the issue decided by state legislatures. But his arms length relationship with the Christian right is not helping him catch fire even in the south where he is still running fairly well in most polls. For Thompson to break out of his regional candidacy, he must find a way to engage people’s emotions. And so far, he has been a disappointment.

I speculated a while back that the candidate may not be in the best of health although he is looking better of late. His energy level seemed better in the second debate as well. But with less than 2 months to go before the real contests begin in Iowa and New Hampshire, it may be too late for him to generate the kind of momentum that would allow him to challenge Romney in Iowa or New Hampshire and Giuliani just about everywhere else.

But stranger things have happened in presidential politics. And Thompson is known as something of a closer judging by his past races for the Senate. In order to have a chance, however, Thompson is simply going to have to change the tone of his campaign, bringing more enthusiasm and drive to his effort.

Otherwise, he may very well end up fading into background before the voting even starts.


  1. Rick Moran, this is a fairly well put together bunch of words–you condemn others for wanting Fred to run and then bashing him–you are guilty of the same crime and should be ashamed of yourself. Your homework assignment is to go into:www.Fred08.com and read every line item, article, history, stance, and bit of info, so you really have your facts straight.Don’t count your chickens until they hatch my friend!! Don’t discount the: Best Man for the Job!

    Comment by J fraser — 11/5/2007 @ 9:50 pm

  2. Fred Thompson’s campaign is about Fred Thompson playing the role of Fred Thompson. It’s all about small “c” character — character in the script sense of the word.

    He’s an actor who has made certain choices (as they say in the acting biz) about the character he plays — avuncular, laconic, lacquered with faux gravitas.

    Until and unless some director can pull him aside and convince him that the character he plays should show some passion, Fred’s message will remain “vote for the guy playing the guy a scriptwriter thinks you’d want to vote for.” Problem is that Thompson is a very one-dimensional actor. I doubt he can play passionate.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 11/6/2007 @ 12:05 pm

  3. Rick
    Though the Christian talking heads you find quoted in the MSM may be squawking about stands on abortion, I think you’ll find most Christian voters understand that the only thing a president can really do in that area is nominate judges who won’t legislate from the bench and even Rudy is willing to do that. A constitutional ammendment to protect the unborn can only be put forth by the congress so what Fred thinks about it is of little consequence. I may hate abortion but I’m still in touch with reality. By the way, I’m also in favor of a theocracy but only one in which the theos is actually God not some guy trying to speak for God.

    Comment by Old Mike — 11/6/2007 @ 12:50 pm

  4. If you want a glimpse at the rift between pro-life realists vs purists go read the comments in the story regarding the Human Life Amendment and Fred Thompson at RedState, I think it is still on the front page. Both agree that abortion is murder but the realists understand that giving the decision back to the states and using incremental change is the best way to go. The purists in turn accused the realists of using ‘pro-choice rhetoric’ and want nothing short of the immediate reversal of RvW. As a secular conservative it sucks that we have to pander to these people. Since when was the first and foremost cause of conservatives abortion and gay marriage?

    Comment by aric — 11/6/2007 @ 2:38 pm

  5. Weds. Morning Links…

    Climate skepticism on the rise in Europe Fred fading? The guy is good, but does he really have his heart in this?Sarkozy in Washington: "We want to win your hearts back."Prude: How our sex-obsessed culture damages girls. A book, at PowerlineF…

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 11/7/2007 @ 6:01 am

  6. Michael Reynolds’ analysis is the most astute I’ve seen, lacking only the observation that Fred looks like an old man reaching the rocking-chair time of life. In Law & Order he’s already been elected and most of the heavy lifting is in the past and he is free to make pithy though wisdom-rich comments on the cases that have just been won or lost.

    Comment by Banjo — 11/7/2007 @ 9:06 am

  7. I agree mostly with Rick and Michael R.

    The late-entry hype gave Fred a huge wave to ride. He didn’t ride it. His only real opportunity was to quickly capture and hold the lead by taking advantage of conservatives’ reservations about Mitt, Rudy, and McCain. He blew it. I’m not interested in a president who can’t make things happen. W has made some serious mistakes, but he beats the tar out the dhimmicrats at almost every opportunity.

    You’ve heard the phrase, “I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid.” Well, Fred’s obviously not dumb, but he’s looking pretty stupid by now.

    Comment by greenchili — 11/7/2007 @ 1:36 pm

  8. What stranger thing could happen in a presidential campaigns than a lacklustre candidate winning the nomination? I guess Fred expected people to lift him to their shoulders as soon as soon as his hat went into the ring. That only happens in the movies. To sum up: dull, old-looking, clearly bored with all this. He won’t even be a footnote to history, the fate of Ron Paul. Fred will be lucky to qualify for an asterick.

    Comment by Banjo — 1/5/2008 @ 5:53 pm

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