Can he energize the GOP?

Rudy Giuliani may still be leading in the polls, and John McCain and Mitt Romney may be trying to prove they're the most conservative candidates in the race. But now that actor and former senator Fred Thompson is about to declare his presidential candidacy, said Craig Gordon in Newsday, it will 'œjumble an already volatile Republican field.'' Already, Thompson has shot up to third in some national polls of registered Republicans, who were notably lukewarm about their choices up to now. Unlike Giuliani, McCain, and Romney, the avuncular, 6'“foot'“5 Tennessean has a consistent track record on conservative causes such as abortion, gun rights, and tax cuts. In an amazingly short time, Thompson has been cast as the party's 'œsecular savior,'' said Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online. Like the conservative hero Ronald Reagan, Thompson has a gift for talking about his ideas in a folksy, convincing way. Republicans are weary of George W. Bush's malapropisms and clumsy, halting sentences. Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who can pronounce 'œnuclear'' correctly?

Thompson, though, is hardly the ideal candidate desperate conservatives are pretending he is, said John Dickerson in His eight'“year tenure as a senator from Tennessee was utterly undistinguished, and his reputation on Capi­tol Hill was as a lazy legislator who lacked the attention span to tackle difficult problems. 'œI don't want to spend the rest of my life up here,' he once whined, before quitting politics in 2002 to ham it up on Law & Order. Take away his homespun aphorisms and you've got a perfectly charming, bright fellow with not nearly enough experience to be president.

That doesn't much matter to a panicky GOP, said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. All that seems to matter is that Thompson comes across well on TV, like their hero Reagan. But whatever you think of Reagan, he was the real thing'”'œthe dominant politician of the conservative movement,' who ran for president so he could transform the country and the world according to his very distinct ideals. Thompson has never displayed that kind of fire'“in'“the'“belly passion. In fact, it's quite clear 'œthat he lacks any such thing.'' The fact that Republicans are turning to him so eagerly shows how badly off they are. After Iraq and seven years of Bush, they no longer hope to 'œfix the god'“awful mess the country is in.'' They hope only to hang on to power, any way they can.

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