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Monday, June 04, 2007
Can Fred Do It?

A lot of interest in this "non-campaign" campaign. John Fund:

He lacks the compelling story of Rudy Giuliani during 9/11. He isn't a war hero with a 24-year record in Congress like John McCain. He doesn't have the M.B.A. smoothness and business success of Mitt Romney. But what Fred Thompson demonstrated to an enthusiastic Virginia Republican Party dinner Saturday is that he has gravitas, a presence and the ability to make people comfortable. Most importantly, many at the dinner saw him as a conservative who doesn't alienate or cause angst with any element of the GOP coalition.

That's a fair assessment, I would say. Although of course one of the reasons Thompson does not alienate a lot of the coalition is that he hasn't run for office since 1996 and thus has not had to take stands on current issues.

While it was clear Mr. Thompson has found a way to excite the Republican base, his impending candidacy is at a crossroads. He has run what Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard calls "the greatest non-campaign campaign I've ever seen" and has managed to land in the upper ranks of the crowded GOP field without spending any money. But when his actual campaign begins next month, a different standard of success will be applied.

Many doubt he can catch the front-runners with such a late start in raising money, organization and endorsements. He responds that "it's too late to follow those rules even if I wanted to, and I don't want to." Instead he plans to use new technology in innovative ways that include everything from the Internet to distributing videos to cell phones. Less tech-savvy primary voters can expect to see Mr. Thompson as a constant presence on talk radio and cable TV news. Will that be enough? Much of it may depend on just how much Mr. Thompson can build on the success of Howard Dean in 2004 in harnessing the power of the Internet as a fund-raising tool.

Let me remind Mr Fund that Howard Dean's success was all in 2003; once 2004 started his campaign had almost no success.

Thompson is being coy on his campaign plans, according to Jonathan Martin:

But in other ways, Thompson remains resolutely a non-candidate. When those aides were asked for a copy of the speech their new boss was about to deliver, they explained that there was no such thing. Thompson would speak from the heart, or at least a few scrawled notes. And when he did speak, there were the first notes of a stump speech in that very familiar low boom of a drawl.

Speaking to Republicans who have suffered a string of losses, Thompson acknowledged that the party “was a bit down politically right now.” But he added, hopefully, that “tonight we’re on the comeback trail.”

Yet in trying to fire up the crowd, he stopped short of declaring his intention to lead that comeback.

I don't know what Martin means by a "string" of losses; we lost in 2006, but we won in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

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