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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.

By: Rick Moran at 12:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

Maggie's Farm linked with Weds. Morning Links...

In the old days when watching television involved trying to decide what sitcom to watch on which of the only three networks the entertainment Gods saw fit to make available to us mortals, “channel surfing” meant heaving yourself up from the easy chair, walking over to the TV and manually twisting a knob that changed the station.

A “knob.” How quaint. The knob actually had the numbers 1-13 of which perhaps 5 channels actually featured a network. And one of those stations – PBS - wasn’t really considered TV anyway. No laugh track, nobody was ever gunned down, and nothing ever blew up. What was it good for, anyway?

Then came the TV remote control and life as we know it on earth was altered irrevocably. At first, men were able to drive their wives to homicide by switching back and forth between three channels – an admittedly futile and annoying practice since one was apt to confuse the plot lines of the shows you were trying to watch. Hence, it became difficult to remember if Dick Van Dyke was really going to be able to rescue Sgt. Saunders and Little John from the Germans while Marshall Dillon and FBI Inspector Erskine tried to arrest Johnny Yuma for crimes against good acting.

We have no such problems today thanks to the 200 plus cable and satellite stations available to any American of modest means. And with this explosion of choices, the TV remote has assumed the status of domestic icon, a talisman of power that allows the possessor a window on the universe or at least the ability to find out what the temperature is outside your window.

Such power is intoxicating. But it can also condemn the user, like the Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow, to go off on a futile quest in search of something important that can never be found – the perfect television show where even the commercials are riveting entertainment. Unfettered channel surfing is as much an expression of hope as it is a way to alleviate boredom.

Thus, last night, I found myself in a monumental quandary. There was the GOP debate from Florida on Fox News where the grown up candidates were being asked questions by grown up journalists that actually elicited responses that voters might use to make up their minds about a candidate’s presidential qualifications and not demonstrate whether our future president might emote well when asked silly questions about how they are “feeling.”

Then there was Sunday Night Football on NBC with the Steelers going up against the Broncos at Mile High Stadium – classic match-up with classic announcers in Al and John. The fact that there are few things in life more enjoyable than watching NFL Football in Hi-Def was also an attraction.

Finally, to make my conundrum complete, there was the 7th game of the ALCS featuring the Indians – who haven’t won a World Series since 1948 – and the Red Sox who have made a wonderful habit in recent years of coming back from the dead and going on to victory.

For an hour and a half while the debate was occurring, I was clicking like a madman. Both ballgames ended up being as good as advertised (the Red Sox pulled away late to win 11-2) so I missed huge chunks of the GOP debate. This I didn’t mind because the football game was so good, it almost made me forget how badly my beloved Bears have been playing this year (despite an incredibly desperate, 97 yard TD drive with less than two minutes and no timeouts against the Eagles that saved their season temporarily).

However, thanks to old fashioned VCR technology, I was able to tape the debate and watch most of what I missed live. In this, I was not disappointed because the debate was perhaps the most animated, most interesting discussion compared to any of the previous GOP get togethers.

I thought that once again, Rudy Giuliani was sharp, on point, and at times, inspiring. However, he had trouble defending himself from some of the attacks launched against him by Romney and Thompson. There really isn’t any getting around the fact that when Mayor of New York City, Rudy acted at times in a decidedly unconservative manner. How much this truly hurts him I just don’t know. My issues with Rudy revolve around his experience and temperament not his lack of conservative credentials. But for some, I’m sure, his liberal apostasy will keep them from voting for him.

Romney was surprisingly subdued although smooth and very well prepared as usual. He actually had a hair or two out of place which almost made him look human. Why he is wasting his time attacking John McCain is beyond me. Their catfight elicited the liveliest exchanges of the night but Romney’s target should be Giuliani. Besides that, he said nothing memorable and got bogged down a couple of times in minutiae. Not his best performance.

McCain also seemed a little off although he delivered the best line of the night talking about the $1 million earmark Hillary delivered for the Woodstock Museum. He noted that the concert was probably a “a cultural and pharmaceutical event” but that he couldn’t attend because he was “tied up at the time” – a reference to his horrific experience as a POW. That crack garnered a standing ovation and applause from the other candidates.

But McCain seemed a little flat when defending some of his positions and didn’t have the energy the other candidates brought to the debate. A disappointing performance.

The Huckaboob was his ‘ole self, grinnin’ like a possum and reeling off southern aphorisms one after another. I suppose we’re going to have to put up with him for a while longer since he’s closing fast in Iowa and might shock the world and finish 1st or 2nd. He doesn’t have a prayer in the general election if he were to win the nomination so if the GOP wants to commit suicide, the Huckathing is their man.

Hunter,Tancredo and Paul could have stayed home. I think Paul even did more damage to himself by his reaction to the booing in the audience. It was the first venue where his Paulbots seemed to be drowned out by the rest of the audience and it appeared to disconcert him. If possible, he was even more shrill and nonsensical than usual. If people were actually going to give him a serious look last night, I would think they would have to come away disappointed.

But if there was a winner last night, it had to be Fred Thompson – not because of his outstanding performance but because once again, he exceeded expectations. I thought he was rather subdued and tired looking in that first debate but this time, he looked much better (make-up?) and sounded much more alive and forceful. He was animated in his debate with Giuliani over tort reform and I think he scored quite well with his federalism answer to Rudy’s charge. He also took a nice chunk out of Rudy with his pointing out the former Mayor’s inconsistency with regard to sanctuary cities. Rudy’s answer was vague and unconvincing. In short, Fred scored against Rudy while establishing himself as the leading conservative in the field. Not a bad night for someone already being written off by the inside the beltway crowd.

Note to the political parties: Please do not schedule your debates opposite NFL Football ever again. My thumb eventually became sore switching back and forth between the two great American games and I would hate to have to give up watching either one just to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.

By: Rick Moran at 7:04 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

QT Monster's Place linked with Fred Thompson's Campaign Starting to Impress...
Neocon News linked with Aww, yeah. GOP debate time....

Fear of those who are different than us – especially those who worship differently than we do – is one of the hallmarks of the truly ignorant. If there was ever an issue in a democracy not to get your panties all in a bunch over it would have to be how someone talks to God; what name they call him, what direction they face when they pray, the funny little hats they wear when speaking to him, or even really, really esoteric differences like whether they believe the Indians are actually the lost tribes of Israel or if someone believes in any of this superstitious nonsense in the first place.

It just doesn’t matter – or it shouldn’t anyway. Of course, in America everything eventually comes down to politics anyway. And while clear majorities of Americans want their president to have definite religious views, even larger majorities don’t want a candidate prattling on and on about them. They support a minister’s right to talk about politics but large majorities do not think religious leaders should be in the business of endorsing candidates. In short, American draw a sharp, distinct line between the private practice of religion and what role it should have in politics; that is, as little as possible.

Except for a large segment of the Republican party, stuck as they are in the 17th century where religious tests for office in England were a matter of routine, the question of where someone comes out on their very own Christian-o-Meter seems to matter a great deal. And the deal is, neither God nor any of the Prophets or disciples or apostles or even Jesus Christ himself defines the issues that determine who is a “good Christian” and who gets piled on for being the devil’s disciple.

The job of deciding what issues make you a good Christian candidate go to people like Pat Robertson or James Dobson or any other highly visible, well heeled TV evangelist who arbitrarily can tell Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and especially that Mormon apostate Mitt Romney that they are not welcome to sup at the table of the righteous but must beg for scraps and grovel like a dog if they wish any recognition at all.

Now going off as I do here on these “leaders” of the religious right probably has some of the more simpleminded among you believing I am somehow “anti-Christian.” In logic class, we might have simply laughed you out of the room and told you to go home to your mother and come back when you were ready to act and think like an adult. Of course I am not saying anything whatsoever that could be construed as “anti-Christian.” I am however, trying to make a case for kicking the Dobsons, the Robertsons, and their pandering, homophobic, fear mongering clique of insufferably arrogant and self righteous sycophants out of the GOP party hierarchy.

Where they go from there, I could really care less. But to have them determining “litmus test” issues and then actually having the supreme hubris to pass judgement on how well a political candidate adheres to their narrow view of Christian ethics is nothing less than a determination of fealty to one set of religious principles – a “religious test” by any other name.

How many ways is this wrong? How UN-American is this? Evidently, people like Dobson could care less:

I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.

The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.

Why must it be all or nothing? Practical, reasonable people support the candidate that best reflects their principles but aren’t dogmatic about it. People give different weight to different issues and their judgement about a candidate is reflected in a host of factors – personality, likability, and purely selfish concerns having to do with personal wealth and issues that directly impact the pocketbook.

But all this goes under the bus when Dobson and his crew start waving the bible around and saying people like Fred Thompson are not Christian:

“Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson – considered the most politically powerful evangelical figure in the U.S. – said in a phone call to Dan Gilgoff, senior editor at U.S. News & World Report.

“[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian. At least that’s my impression.”

Dobson then issued a “clarification” that was, if anything, more egregiously intolerant than his original remarks about Thompson:

“In his conversation with Mr. Gilgoff, Dr. Dobson was attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him.

“Dr. Dobson told Mr. Gilgoff he had never met Sen. Thompson and wasn’t certain that his understanding of the former senator’s religious convictions was accurate. Unfortunately, these qualifiers weren’t reported by Mr. Gilgoff. We were, however, pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer.

Is one’s support or opposition to Roe v Wade a “religious conviction?” Are we not content with thrusting God into the political fray but must now bring Him into the Courts as well?

It is just as well. Dobson got his comeuppance from Thompson during an interview with Sean Hannity last night:

Host Sean Hannity asked Thompson about Dobson, who has attacked Thompson and made it clear he would not support a Thompson candidacy. “Don’t read too much into the Dobson thing,” Thompson told Hannity, continuing:

A gentleman who has never met me, who has never talked to me, I’ve never talked to him on the phone. I did have one of his aides call me up and kind of apologize, the first time he attacked me and said I wasn’t a Christian…

I don’t know the gentleman. I do know that I have a lot of people who are of strong faith and are involved in the same organizations that he is in, that I’ve met with, Jeri and I both have met with, and I like to think that we have some strong friendships and support there…

Hannity then asked: “Would you want to have a conversation with Dr. Dobson? Do you think that might help?”

I have no idea. I don’t particularly care to have a conversation with him. If he wants to call up and apologize again, that’s ok with me. But I’m not going to dance to anybody’s tune.

Good for Fred. Unfortunately, in the current GOP party structure, not dancing to Dobson’s tune isn’t likely to get you very far. I may be wrong about him, but Thompson seems to me to be just the sort of person we need as President. When he says that he “won’t dance to anybody’s tune,” you get the impression that goes not only for Dobson but other special interests as well. Coupled with his genuine conservative stands on many issues, he is becoming more and more attractive to me every day, although I wouldn’t commit to him yet.

Contrast Thompson’s rhetoric with that of John McCain. Mired in 4th place in most polls, McCain is evidently trying to “Out-Christian” all the other candidates by opining that first he wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for President unless he could be sure of his loyalty to the United States and then topping that idiocy by saying “no thanks” to Mitt Romney by averring (in all seriousness) that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints may not be a Christian sect:

John McCain’s remarks about America being founded in the Constitution as a Christian nation have opened him up to getting a lot more questions about his religion — and the religions of other candidates.

At a meeting with the Spartanburg Herald-Journal editorial board, McCain was asked whether Mormons are Christians — a serious issue with many evangelicals, and a potential pitfall for Mitt Romney.

“I don’t know. I respect their faith. I’ve never frankly looked at the Mormon religion. I’ve known a lot of Mormons who are wonderful people,” McCain said.

To be fair, McCain went on to say that he didn’t believe Romney’s Mormonism should be held against him. But isn’t that kind of like saying “The fact that my opponent has molested children in the past should have no bearing on this race…?” Magnanimous but a little hypocritical at the same time.

Where all this religiosity in the GOP is leading is as plain as the nose on your face; total, unmitigated defeat. A rout. A bloodbath. Republicans are not going to get 18 million evangelical Christians out to vote for any of the current top tier candidates for President. That’s the number that voted for George Bush in 2004 and arguably supplied his margin of victory over John Kerry. And the difference between 2004 and 2008 is that there will be a sizable chunk of voters who leave the GOP because of this pandering to the religious right and their extremist, narrow, moralistic, issues.

So not only will Republicans see a reduced evangelical vote but if you couple that with people who have abandoned the party in disgust for one reason or another, you have the makings of a truly historic defeat for the GOP.

But don’t worry. If such a defeat were to happen, the Dobsons and their apologists would simply chalk it up to not nominating a candidate who was “pure” enough on those vital issues of gay marriage or some other cultural issue that most Americans place far down their list of priorities. So they will continue to fool themselves into thinking that it doesn’t matter that nobody cares about their issues as long as they are “true to principle.”

Tough to stand on principle when you’re stuck in the political hinterlands and nobody is listening to you.


The GOP must have known I was going to highlight their slavish devotion to their evangelical base today.

Nearly 20% of the Republican caucus voted “present” on a resolution commending the country’s attention to the Muslim holiday of Ramadan:

The resolution recognized “the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world,” rejected “hatred, bigotry and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide” and “[commended] Muslims in the United States and across the globe who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence and terror.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) dismissed the resolution as political correctness gone too far.

“This resolution is an example of the degree to which political correctness has captured the political and media elite in this country,” Tancredo said. “I am not opposed to commending any religion for their faith. The problem is that any attempt to do so for Jews or Christians is immediately condemned as ‘breaching’ the non-existent line between church and state by the same elite.”

Of course, the fact that voting for this resolution would have made many of your evangelical supporters upset didn’t have a thing to do with it, eh Tom? Can’t refer to Islam as “one of the world’s great religions” without raising worries that before you know it, there will be a Koran in every Congressman’s office.


Allah has a some prescient thoughts on Dobson and Rudy:

While he was writing this, the archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, was telling the hometown paper that he’d deny communion to Rudy over his pro-choice stand, a logical extension of the rumblings from the Vatican earlier this year about Catholic politicians whose wall between church and state is a little too high. Burke is no face in the crowd. According to the Post-Dispatch, he’s respected as one of the Church’s most brilliant legal minds and apparently authored a paper last year arguing that if a wayward Catholic politician had been formally warned not to receive communion, it would be a mortal sin for any priest or eucharistic minister to give it to them.

The more the religious establishment lines up against him, the more Rudy becomes the protest choice for conservatives who think the religious right has too much sway over the party. I’ve got to admit, for all the grief I give him, I’m starting to lean towards Rudy myself.

I have numerous other problems with Rudy but his stand on social issues isn’t part of them. What I’ve read from many who have served with him makes me think that a Rudy White House would be a very interesting place indeed. He’s a man who engenders loyalty but also fear – something I’m not sure is a good thing in a president. And then there’s the experience factor. Do we really want to hand the modern presidency off to a man whose highest office achieved was Mayor of a big city?

I don’t know which is why I’m so up in the air about who to support.

By: Rick Moran at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)


What a difference a week makes.

I honestly didn’t expect a large boost for Fred Thompson after he officially declared his candidacy. He had been “on the verge” for so long that I believed most Republicans had already accepted him as a candidate and that any bump he got from announcing would be a blip, barely beyond the statistically significant.

But polls taken in the last 72 hours tell a different story. Apparently, many conservatives who had been flirting with both Romney and Giuliani are taking another look at Thompson, tightening the race nationally while showing a definite “Fred Surge” in one key state.

First, the national numbers. Rasmussen:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that Fred Thompson is enjoying a bounce from his formal entry into the Presidential race.

In the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination, Thompson is on top for the first time since late July. The former Tennessee Senator is currently the top choice for 26% of Likely Republican Primary Voters. Rudy Giuliani, who has been the frontrunner for most of the year, is close behind with support from 22%. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earns the vote from 13% while 12% prefer Arizona Senator John McCain. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee remains atop the second tier at 6% (see recent daily numbers).

Now that’s what I call a surge.

CBS has Fred moving up as well, narrowing the gap with Giuliani:

After seeing his support among Republican primary voters rise to 38 percent in August, Giuliani was backed by only 27 percent of respondents in the most recent survey, narrowing his lead over Thompson to 5 percentage points after holding a 20-point edge last month.

While Thompson, at 22 percent support, is now a close second to Giuliani, he was not the only Republican to seemingly benefit from Giuliani’s fading numbers. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was written off by some after months of staff upheaval and disappointing fundraising, saw his support increase 6 points since the last survey to 18 percent. On the other hand, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won August’s straw poll in Ames, Iowa, saw little benefit nationwide, scoring 14 percent support – largely unchanged since last month.

Gallup gives Fred a smaller bump (19% – 22%) but still significant.

Obviously, Fred is tapping into a conservative base that was unhappy with Romney and especially, Giuliani – for different reasons. Romney’s calculated moves to the right have not sat well with many while Giuliani makes no bones about his differences with many conservatives, although he’s probably conservative enough for most Republicans. Unease with Giuliani’s experience as well as his stands on root Republican issues like abortion and gay marriage have some of the base looking for an alternative.

Romney, still mired in the mid teens nationally, may be getting a little desperate. A poorly disguised political dirty trick directed against Thompson has backfired:

A top adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears to be behind the launch of a new Web site attacking GOP presidential rival Fred D. Thompson during his first week on the trail.

The site,, painted an unflattering picture of Thompson, dubbing the former TV star and senator Fancy Fred, Five O’clock Fred, Flip-Flop Fred, McCain Fred, Moron Fred, Playboy Fred, Pro-Choice Fred, Son-of-a-Fred and Trial Lawyer Fred. Shortly after a Washington Post reporter made inquiries about the site to the Romney campaign, it was taken down.

Before it vanished, the front page of the Web site featured a picture of Thompson depicted in a frilly outfit more befitting a Gilbert and Sullivan production than a presidential candidate.

The Republicans have a long way to go as far as being internet savvy. You can bet if a Democratic candidate set up an attack website, there would be no way to trace it back to the campaign. The Washington Post was able to unmask the fake Fred site in no time.

Meanwhile, in California, the latest Survey USA (GOP) poll has Giuliani edging Thompson 28%-26%. Their last poll in early August had Fred trailing Rudy by 11. The Mother of all Primaries on February 5 next year will include California, Illinois, and New York along with 16 other states – at least (it is still not clear whether Michigan and Florida will toe the party line and push their primaries back to February 5 or later). Fred’s best chance for a big state win on Mega Tuesday will probably be California since Romney’s dad was a governor of Michigan and Rudy looks unbeatable on his home turf of New York. Florida is another possibility for Fred as several of his key advisors have ties to Jeb Bush. Regardless, all of these numbers should give a little momentum to Fred as he wades in to the money morass and attempts to raise funds.

That, of course, is the key; turning these surging numbers into a flood of mother’s milk. With the constraints on his fund raising abilities off, Fred is going to have to raise at least $1.5 million a week between now and the end of the year by my calculations in order for him to be competitive in the early primaries and caucuses. This is more than doable if his operation is finally set and he has the people he wants in key positions. Any confusion at the staff level from here on out will reflect badly on the candidate and this will almost certainly affect his ability to raise money.

What The Fred Surge says about the race is that it is still wide open. You have to wonder if New Gingrich isn’t seeing the reaction to Thompson entering the race and contemplating his own prospects.

At this point, anything and everything is possible.


Steve Smith emails from the Romney campaign with an explanation of the “PhoneyFred.Org” website that the Washington Post charges a top aide to the campaign with involvement:

As reported in the Boston Globe, the site has no direct affiliation to our
campaign, and we had no knowledge of its development.

Once we received inquiries about the site, we discovered it was created by an
individual who parked the site temporarily on the company server space of a
firm whose financial partner is a consultant to the campaign- Mr. Tompkins.
Mr. Tompkins also had absolutely no knowledge about the development of the site
or that it was temporarily parked on the firm’s server.

We informed this party that as a result of that server use, we were receiving
inquires about the site. We made it clear that we did not approve of the site
and asked for immediate action to make sure it was again in no way affiliated
with the campaign.

The person responsible is not an employee of ours, but we took immediate action
to make sure it was clear the site was not affiliated with the campaign.

By: Rick Moran at 8:11 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Thompson's entry adds intrigue to GOP presidential race...

I must confess to being something of a closet Fredhead. Long before Thompson was even thought of as a potential candidate for president, going back to the late 1990’s, I had been impressed with the Tennessee Senator’s thoughtful, measured approach to the issues and the fact that he seemed willing to buck the GOP establishment at times.

It’s not a surprise that he’s running for president. It is something of a puzzle as to how he’s gone about it. I realize that there were sound, tactical reasons for his delay in entering. But I think it only served to make his long shot candidacy even more difficult.

But that doesn’t lessen my admiration for a man who I consider one of the more interesting and thoughtful men to come along in public life in recent years.

Catching him on the cable news nets and the occasional appearance on the Sunday morning talkies, it was clear that there was an intelligence and depth behind the folksiness and the aw-shucks, good ‘ole boy demeanor he carefully cultivated. Besides, he was the political protege of a man I considered one of the great and honorable public servants in my lifetime. A former Minority and Majority Leader, candidate for President, and another thoughtful, serious conservative, Howard Baker saw something in Fred Thompson as far back as 1972 when he asked the young attorney to manage his re-election campaign. And it was Baker who finally convinced a reluctant Thompson to run for the Senate in 1994, overcoming his objections by appealing to his loyalty. It seems the Democratic candidate had defeated Baker’s daughter in a House race and Baker wanted a little payback.

More likely, the canny Baker simply knew what buttons to press in order to get Thompson out on to the hustings. But for me, if Fred Thompson can impress Howard Baker, then he’s already got a leg up on the rest of the field.

There has been great turmoil in the Thompson campaign of late. Part of that is no doubt the fact that he had to go from a standing start in May when the buzz around the candidate first became pronounced to a full blown, national organization less than 90 days later. Mistakes were made. Mistakes are still being made if you believe Jim Geraghty (and Jim is one of the sharpest observers of campaigns out there).

Time has telescoped and magnified Thompson’s staff problems compared to other campaign organizations. Other campaign shakedowns occur over several months, even a year. For Thompson, he’s had to work out the kinks on the fly over a matter of weeks. It remains to be seen whether this will doom his candidacy before it starts or whether his moves to hire on experienced campaign hands rather than go with the eager but relatively untested people they are replacing will help him regain some of the momentum he has lost over the last month.

Does he have a chance? Realistically, no. He’s too far behind in too many states. And he is woefully outgunned financially and organizationally by both Romney and Giuliani. I haven’t read much about what his strategy will be but I think we can make some educated guesses. For Fred, he must be able to emerge on the morning of February 6 still within spitting distance of the leader who will probably be Rudy Giuliani. For that to happen, he has to hope that neither Romney or Giuliani are able to dominate the early contests, either one never getting more than a third of the delegates in any one state, while Fred is hitting threshold numbers everywhere (most states have a minimum percentage of the vote requirement in order for a candidate to get any delegates). He must also hope he can win a few primaries in the south and border states on the 5th by hefty enough margins so that he can walk away with the lion’s share of delegates.

I think he will raise enough money to carry him through those Super Tuesday primaries on February 5. After that, if it is a 3 man race, people may start to look very carefully at what they are about to do by nominating a northeastern moderate Republican for president. It is still a long slog for either a Romney or Gillian to get the support of 50% of Republicans. So it is possible in this scenario that Fred will emerge as a consensus conservative candidate and begin to attract the money and endorsements necessary that would allow him to have a fighting chance at the nomination.

But the problem is that more than half the delegates will have been selected by February 6 and unless Fred is within a couple hundred delegates of the leader, he will have no chance of making up the lost ground, not with delegates being apportioned according to the percentage of vote in the primaries. Fred could win most of the remaining primaries and never catch up if his wins are narrow enough.

I think this is the most realistic scenario for a Thompson candidacy. Then again, Fred could surprise everyone by showing up Romney in Iowa, Giuliani in New Hampshire, and sweeping Super Tuesday. I just don’t think that is in the cards considering the deep pockets of both Giuliani and Romney. But stranger things have happened. Just ask Howard Dean.

For a look at the Thompson announcement video and some choice cuts from his appearance on Leno last night, Allah has it for you. And he adds this critique of the 15 minute announcement piece on YouTube:

Re: the web announcement video, that’s a lot of talking, son, and a lot of talking points, all of it synced up with head-bob choreography. I thought he’d start with a minute or so of addressing the camera and then segue into 10 minutes of video biography, a la McCain’s recent Vietnam ad, but on and on he goes. Clearly he’s trying to leverage the success he’s had with his radio commentaries: no frills, just a straight shooter calling it like he sees it, sans gimmicks — a neat trick for a Hollywood actor delivering a 15-minute oration with stagy head turns at key moments built in. The sheer volume of information and the pace at which he runs through it is daunting, though. God, family, peace with honor, secure borders, small government, a frisson of horror at the thought of another Clinton administration — it’s all in there, but it’s a lot to digest in one go and he seems to be rushing to shoehorn it all into the time available. How many people will sit through the whole thing?

Doesn’t much matter. He’s trying to make an impression and an extended Reaganesque soliloquy does that, at least. Thank god he’s in a den in a suit and tie, too. If he tried this in a denim shirt with the pick-up truck in the background, I’d be heading for the lifeboats.

Yeah, it was long. But it was just folksy enough to keep me interested. And it won’t be long before that head bobbing shows up in impressions of him on Saturday Night Live.

BTW, Allah – don’t give up on that denim shirt and pickup truck quite yet. The campaign may yet find a way to incorporate it into some of his appearances.

By: Rick Moran at 8:00 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

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CATEGORY: Decision '08, FRED!

Fred Thompson fired his campaign chief today. The reason? Depends who you’re reading:

Tom Collamore, the former Altria lobbyist who had been running Fred Thompson’s campaign, has resigned and will be replaced by Randy Enwright. Enwright is a Florida political hand with ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Also coming on board in a leadership capacity is Spencer Abraham, the former Michigan senator and Energy secretary.

“We’re making a number of planned changes as we move to the next phase,” said Thompson communications director Linda Rozett. “We’re adding political muscle to the organization.”

A Thompson aide said that Enwright would serve as the day-to-day manager while Abraham would take more of a campaign chairman capacity.

Collamore will stay on as a “senior adviser” to the effort, but with a diminished role. Accounts vary as to what exactly happened, but Collamore was reportedly unhappy with the level of involvement of Thompson’s wife, Jeri, and others in Thompson’s inner circle found Collarmore not up to the task of overseeing a presidential campaign.

” He needed more political people involved,” said one source close to the campaign.

That’s a very nice way of saying “You shouldn’t have quit your day job, Tom.”

Indeed, some of the pros I speak to on occasion with insight into the inner workings of some of the GOP campaigns told me weeks ago that Collamore was only a temp, that the shoestring operation he was running wouldn’t translate into the basis for a national campaign. In the next 45 days, the Thompson campaign is going to increase in size dramatically and it was frankly felt that Collamore was not up to the challenge.

Also, for these last couple of months, the Thompson people have been working on Jeb Bush hoping to tap into that wellspring of money and experience. They hit paydirt today:

Enwright was to originally serve as Thompson’s political director. A former Florida GOP executive director, worked on Jeb Bush’s ‘94 and ‘98 gubernatorial campaigns. While owning his own consulting firm, Enwright had served as an RNC liaision to the Sunshine State in recent years. Abraham is a longtime Republican operative. Before being elected to the Senate, he was the longtime chair of the Michigan GOP, VP Dan Quayle’s chief of staff and an NRCC co-chair.

Beyond the important contacts in the Midwest that Abraham can bring to the campaign, he’s an excellent choice for a variety of reasons. He’s a very smart, savvy politician who had to win as a Republican in a heavily unionized state. Considering how close Bush came to winning both Wisconsin and Michigan in 2004, having a knowledgeable source for how to run in those states heading up your campaign can only help.

Enwright’s s elevation will not be the last personnel move made at the top of the campaign. It should be interesting to see who Fred will hire as political director. Don’t be surprised if another politico with connections to Jeb the Younger emerges. Wooing the younger Bush has been part of Fred’s strategy for months simply because he needs a win in a big state on National Primary Day to legitimize his campaign and set himself up as a viable alternative to Rudy. His hope is to finish McCain in South Carolina (February 2) and stay alive on National Primary Day (February 5) by picking off a few southern states like Georgia, Alabama, his home state of Tennessee, and West Virginia while winning in Florida and being competitive in California and Illinois, hoping that Rudy and Mitt slug it out elsewhere and neither one is able to get too far ahead.

I can see now why Fred eschewed the traditional route taken by other candidates. He won’t be able to compete with Rudy or Mitt moneywise which means his organization will necessarily be leaner. And while he will probably be forced to compete in New Hampshire (where a third place finish would be perceived as good) which means setting up an office there with paid staff, his real test will come in South Carolina. The Palmetto state is McCain’s Alamo and a solid win by Thompson there would finish the Arizona Senator.

But don’t expect Fred to set up satellite offices in too many states. Media buys will be a nightmare prior to February 5. Most of the funds he raises this quarter and the next will have to be saved for TV. You can’t ignore any state. But expensive media markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York would soak up valuable funds that could better be used where Fred is going to be much more competitive.

Fred appears to be making the right moves. The initial stages of his campaign have gone extremely well. But a word of caution; historically speaking, when campaigns expand at a rapid rate, a few things always seem to be left behind. The organization will experience growing pains and mistakes will almost certainly be made.

Overcoming those mistakes is usually the difference between winning and losing.

By: Rick Moran at 7:35 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

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CATEGORY: Decision '08, FRED!

Welcome to the 2008 Presidential campaign, Fred Thompson!

Set to announce his candidacy as soon as this week, the former Senator from Tennessee is ready to turn his front porch campaign into a full blown effort to reach for the brass ring. And by doing so, Fred has unleashed those Media Furies whose tried and true methods of smearing and destroying GOP hopefuls has been honed to a fine point through more than 50 years of flinging feces and slinging slime at their ideological opponents.

There’s never been anything subtle about these campaigns. The Furies don’t do nuance. Rather, their attacks are full frontal assaults on decency and the truth – all the better to stick the knife into the vitals of their target and give it a few good twists.

The astonishing thing is that without coordination or “conspiracy,” the three most screechingly anti-Republican news outlets in the country – the LA Times, the NY Times, and the AP - all published what can only be described as “hit pieces” in a period of three days.

Now, it should be said that looking at the record of the Senator while he was a lobbyist is perfectly legitimate journalism and provides the public with pertinent information on Mr. Thompson’s character and qualifications. But this LA Times piece that breathlessly reveals the fact that Fred “lobbied” for a pro-choice outfit in the 1990’s could have used a few fact checkers and editors before it saw print. If they had done so, it is doubtful the “revelation” would have been news at all.

First, the story:

Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.

His task was to urge the administration of President George H. W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money, according to the records and to people who worked on the matter.

The abortion “gag rule” was then a major political flashpoint. Lobbying against the rule would have placed Thompson at odds with the antiabortion movement that he is now trying to rally behind his expected declaration of a presidential bid.

Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson worked for the family planning group. “Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period,” he said in an e-mail.

Basically, the family planning outfit swears that Thompson lobbied John Sununu, then Chief of Staff to Bush #41 at the White House. However, not only Thompson denies it but Sununu says it’s a bunch of bull as well:

Sununu said in a telephone interview: “I don’t recall him ever lobbying me on that at all. I don’t think that ever happened. In fact, I know that never happened.” He added that he had “absolutely no idea” whether Thompson had met with anybody else at the White House, but said it would have been a waste of time, given the president’s opposition to abortion rights.

In response to Sununu’s denial, DeSarno said Thompson “owes NFPRHA a bunch of money” if he never talked to Sununu as he said he had.

Absolutely let’s get to the bottom of this. Let’s look at the billing records and any other evidence that the family planning group may have of Thompson’s work on their behalf. All we have right now are the minutes from one meeting where this announcement of hiring Thompson was supposedly made and the accounts of several pro-choice activists.

Not a lot to hang your hat on if you were doing an important story that could potentially affect a presidential race. But the LA Times wasn’t interested in accuracy or the truth. They were interested in smearing Fred Thompson. And with Thompson’s categorical denials as well as Sununu’s supporting testimony, it would seem that either the Times was taken in by this pro-choice group or, more likely, simply saw an opportunity to stick the knife into a leading GOP candidate for President.

This LA Times story could be considered a barely legitimate exercise in journalism disguising a vicious smear designed to lower Thompson’s standing with a key GOP interest group – the anti-abortion crowd. But the New York Times makes absolutely no bones about practicing legitimate journalism in this shocking piece on Thompson’s wife where Times Fashion writer Susan Saulny refers to the Tennessee Senator as “grandfatherly” and Jeri Kehn Thompson as a “trophy wife:”

AS the election of 2008 approaches with its cast of contenders who bring unprecedented diversity to the quest for the White House, the voting public has been called on to ponder several questions: Is America ready for a woman to be president? What about a black man? A Mormon?

Now, with the possible candidacy of Fred D. Thompson, the grandfatherly actor and former Republican senator from Tennessee, whose second wife is almost a quarter-century his junior, comes a less palatable inquiry that is spurring debate in Internet chat rooms, on cable television and on talk radio: Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?

The question may seem sexist, even crass, but serious people — as well as Mr. Thompson’s supporters — have been wrestling with the public reaction to Jeri Kehn Thompson, whose youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair present a contrast to the 64-year-old man who hopes to win the hearts of the conservative core of the Republican party. Will the so-called values voters accept this union?

The unbelievable insult to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson written by a Fashion section writer should not surprise us in the least. When putting on the smear, the Times will utilize any section of its publication it sees fit to best highlight where it wants to apply the slime. I suppose the “Style” section would be the best place to talk about a “trophy wife” – if such things were important enough to be included in a presidential campaign. But since they’re not and since Ms. Saulny plays rough and ready with her prose – “but serious people — as well as Mr. Thompson’s supporters” who I guess are not serious people but rather stupid, goober chewing, bible thumping, mouth breathing “values voters” (so-called) and must be instructed in what is obviously an issue that they should cluck their tongues and wag their heads about – it shouldn’t come as a shock the depths to which the Times will sink to savage an ideological foe.

I can’t remember any news outlet printing such a slanderous piece of tripe against a candidate’s wife . Jeri Thompson is no bimbo. She’s an accomplished attorney and by all accounts, smart as a whip. Wouldn’t you love to see a picture of Susan Saulny? What do you think the odds are they her looks and figure suffer by comparison with Mrs. Thompson?

Just wondering.

Finally, this deceptive AP story came out on Saturday with the headline “Fred Thompson aided Nixon on Watergate.” If true, one would guess that Thompson has a lot of explaining to do.

But the story isn’t about Thompson “aiding” Nixon on Watergate. It’s about Thompson doing his job as minority counsel on a Senate investigating committee. Here’s how Thompson described his role in his book At That Point in Time, published in 1975:

Thompson, who declined comment for this story, described himself in his book, “At That Point in Time,” published in 1975, as a Nixon administration “loyalist” who struggled with his role as minority counsel. “I would try to walk a fine line between a good-faith pursuit of the investigation and a good-faith attempt to insure balance and fairness,” Thompson wrote.

The AP story does dispel the myth that Thompson ferreted out the White House taping system information from Alexander Butterfield. Republican investigators had gotten that information from Butterfield days prior to his questioning the White House underling before the cameras. But the guts of this AP hit piece is not so much that Thompson did anything improper, it’s how the Nixon Administration viewed the 30 year old lawyer:

Publicly, Baker and Thompson presented themselves as dedicated to uncovering the truth. But Baker had secret meetings and conversations with Nixon and his top aides, while Thompson worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon’s lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, the tapes and transcripts show.

“We’ve got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson,” Buzhardt told Nixon in an Oval Office meeting on June 6, 1973. The meeting included a discussion of former White House counsel John Dean’s upcoming testimony before the committee.

Dean, the committee’s star witness, had agreed to tell what he knew about the break-in and cover-up if he was granted immunity against anything incriminating he might say.

Nixon expressed concern that Thompson was not “very smart.”

“Not extremely so,” Buzhardt agreed.

“But he’s friendly,” Nixon said.

“But he’s friendly,” Buzhardt agreed. “We are hoping, though, to work with Thompson and prepare him, if Dean does appear next week, to do a very thorough cross-examination.”

Five days later, Buzhardt reported to Nixon that he had primed Thompson for the Dean cross-examination.

“I found Thompson most cooperative, feeling more Republican every day,” Buzhardt said. “Uh, perfectly prepared to assist in really doing a cross-examination.”

It was the job of the minority counsel to prepare for cross examining witnesses brought by Democrats. Why the AP would cast such a negative light on what was so obviously part of Thompson’s job reveals much about their motives for going with the story in the first place. That and the fact that the historian quoted in the story – Stanley Kutler – an emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and author of numerous books on Watergate (guess where his political sympathies lie) seems to believe that any effort by any Republican on the Ervin Committee to defend Nixon should be seen as suspect – despite the fact that it was unclear until August of 1974 that the President was personally involved in the scandal.

This is the biggest non-story regarding Thompson to date and was published simply to tar the Senator with the Watergate mess. By most other objective accounts – including those written by Democrats – Thompson performed honorably and ably on the Committee. And this attempted smear by the AP notwithstanding, that’s how history will remember him during that period.

What these three hit pieces show is that Fred Thompson is a genuine danger to Democrats in the general election. His brand of moderate conservatism would go a long way toward re-uniting the GOP and bringing conservatives back to the fold by election day. While his less than doctrinaire stand on social issues may not play well with that segment of the GOP base, it appears even they are willing to make allowances for a candidate that can bring the Republicans victory in 2008.

No wonder the paragons of liberal virtue in the media seem worried.

By: Rick Moran at 7:02 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

CATEGORY: Decision '08, FRED!

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.

By: Rick Moran at 7:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Romney's abortion stance in McCain's spotlight...