Former senator Fred Thompson appeared in a brief video ad posted on YouTube today to call attention to his plans to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. Thompson, who said his official announcement will come on his Web site, reportedly has arranged to run a commercial during tonight’s GOP debate, although he won’t participate. Thompson is scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, instead.

“Why wait to squeeze a short television ad in between all those tooth whitener commercials,” said Katie Phillips on The New York Times’ The Caucus blog. Thompson will sidestep the 90 minutes that his rivals spend “debating important points on a stage in New Hampshire,” and he’ll be the one who grabs the headlines.

Skipping the debate isn’t a bad idea, said Hugh Hewitt on The Washington Times today lambasted Thompson for voting against cracking down on illegal immigrants in the 1990s. “There's not much chance Jay Leno will ask him about the story or the votes,” and that could be why Thompson plans to be spend the evening “across the continent from the debate.”

“That Thompson would choose a Hollywood venue to declare his candidacy makes sense,” said James Carney on “After all, to the extent that voters recognize Thompson, 65, it's as Arthur Branch, the gruff-but-charming District Attorney in the long-running NBC series Law & Order.”