Rather than give my own take on Fred’s campaign, I will direct you to Bob Krumm’s excellent and thorough critique which leaves us all wondering what could have been.
Jim Geraghty has a source inside the Thompson campaign:
He’s still with his ailing mother. “He’s just being a good son.”
He has not spoken to any other campaign or any other candidates, nor does he intend to at this time.
He will not endorse, I am told by this source close to Thompson.
I am also told, “he has no interest in a vice presidency or a cabinet position.” At an “appropriate time” he will outline his plans for the near future.
This source believes that the race has demonstrated that whatever happens from here on out, the GOP has to stand for consistent conservative policies across the board.
Geraghty also reports that Fred has dropped out of the Florida debate.
So the writing is on the wall and we are left contemplating why such a substantiative candidate failed?
Krumm lists the familiar reasons but I think it goes a little deeper than that – or at least, there is a more basic reason Fred failed; he was not entertaining.
I am amused by the laughter on the left over “Grandpa Fred” and his laid back demeanor. Perhaps if they examined their own fascination with the celebrity candidates on the Democratic side – an empty suit of a man running a campaign of cotton candy platitudes and half thought out policies along with a ruthless shrew whose grasp for power and influence is only slightly less nauseating than that of her philandering husband -they wouldn’t be quite so dismissive. Given that their likely candidate has a personality that makes Leona Helmsley look like a civic saint, one would think a little less gloating on their part might be in order.
After all, Fred thought about government and the relationship with the governed more than 10 Obama’s and 5 Hillary’s put together. Next to Fred, the Democratic party candidates come off like game show hosts. Democrat Bill Bradley comes to mind when looking for candidates who had given what to do after being elected so much thought. But Bradley too, was forced to run against a game show host in Al Gore and lost in the 2000 primaries. This current crop of small minded sophists on the Democratic side remind me of auctioneers bidding for votes among a grasping electorate who refuse to pay for government programs they already benefit from while begging for more.
Could Thompson have changed this dynamic? It’s an interesting thought experiment in that many conservatives in the think tanks believe that enacting federalism would impose a certain kind of civic discipline on Americans that would make most of us stop and think about whether a program or a benefit is really worth having. That’s because once responsibilities like that are returned to the state and local government, there is little doubt that people would be forced to pay for the benefits they desire. It would make both government and the citizens responsible adults when it comes to government spending at all levels.
No Democrat would ever contemplate such a radical shift and a Democrat controlled Congress would very likely not given Fred much of what he wanted if he had been elected. But even the Democrats can’t avoid the issue much longer. Fred literally wrote the book on the near future catastrophe at hand unless reforms in entitlement spending are initiated. In Government on the Brink (Volume II here) Thompson shows with a clarity lacking in so many of the superficial debates over “government spending” that there will shortly come a time when servicing the debt and paying for entitlements will eat up so much of the budget that it will not be possible to adequately defend ourselves or fund other, much needed domestic programs.
At any rate, this is what excited conservatives about Thompson in the first place and why I mourn the end of his campaign today. Fred Thompson talked about these and other issues that no other candidate would dare address. He didn’t speak in apocalyptic terms but rather explained his concerns in a straightforward, no nonsense, “Look people, this is the way it is and the way it’s gonna be” kind of way.
Krumm said that Thompson spoke in paragraphs when he needed to speak in sound bites. I don’t disagree strategically but I question whether Fred would have ever been able to do it and, given the substantiative subject matter, whether it was possible or not. I called him “The Anti-Soundbite Candidate” and indeed, it may have been a part of his undoing. But as I mentioned earlier, soundbites were only part of the problem.
Fred was running for president in a world where the selection process for the highest office in the land is conducted like auditions for American Idol. And the Simon Cowells in the media and punditland just didn’t think Thompson would ever become a star.
Just received this email from the campaign:
Statement from Sen. Fred Thompson
McLean, VA - Senator Fred Thompson today issued the following statement about his campaign for President:
“Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.”
Allah, playing it straight, has a point I don’t believe I’ve seen elsewhere:
So Iâ€™m chalking it up to disorganization. The alternative, that Bush killed the Reagan coalition dead and left Thompson types inviable no matter how efficiently their machines might run, is simply too terrible to contemplate.
Romney will certainly try to claim Reagan’s legacy but we all know that’s a crock. It would have been interesting to see Fred try to bring the factions together but Allah is suggesting that it may not have been possible to begin with.
One more thing, this may be bad news for Giuliani. Thompson was only pulling 6% in Florida but I think most of that will end up in Romney’s column. I wonder if Thompson’s national security conservatives who refuse to vote for McCain will end up in Rudy’s corner? That’s got to be a fairly small number of voters, however, and Rudy must be hopng that Huckabee discovers some cross over appeal to traditional conservatives in Florida.