Feature

Fred Thompson

Republican savior?

In the stock market of presidential politics, there are suddenly 'œa lot of Republicans thinking about buying options on Fred Thompson,' said pollster Peter Brown in RealClearPolitics.com. The actor and former senator has been out of politics for four years, and three weeks ago wasn't even on anyone's long list of potential candidates. Now, from nowhere, having said only that he's 'œgiving some thought' to running, Thompson is polling in double digits. Thompson fills 'œthe conservative void in the Republican field of candidates,' said Robert Novak in the Chicago Sun-Times. Conservatives have cooled on Rudy Giuliani, never warmed to Mitt Romney, and still have 'œno rapport' with John McCain. Thompson, on the other hand, is not only a staunch, lifelong conservative but, thanks to his role as a tough-minded New York prosecutor on the popular TV show Law & Order, may have the 'œpolitical star power' to win a general election.

The word is Reaganesque, said William Kristol in Time. At this early stage of the nomination process, both parties are still dreaming of finding that perfect candidate, a second coming of 'œthe figure it has most admired in recent decades.' For Democrats, that figure was Bobby Kennedy, whose energy and integrity they see, or hope they see, in Barack Obama. For Republicans, the towering icon is Ronald Reagan, which is why every current GOP candidate 'œpresents himself as Reagan's heir.' But Thompson, a tax cutter who knows his way around a microphone, 'œis in a way the most manifestly Reaganite of all.' Lately, I've heard many conservative friends speak approvingly of Thompson's merits 'œand then—chuckling, but almost dispositively—add, 'The last time we nominated an actor, it didn't turn out badly.''

Yes, but last time the actor in question had 'œgenuine experience running something—namely the state of California,' said John Dickerson in Slate.com. In contrast to Ronald Reagan, 'œThompson's résumé is thin.' He's acted on TV and in the movies, spent 'œan undistinguished eight years in the Senate,' and had a youthful bit part as a lawyer in the Watergate hearings. That's not much of a background from which to run for president. The fact is that 'œThompson's chief appeal is emotional.' Republicans, like Democrats, have come to believe that 'œif we just get a better communicator, people will love our policies.' But if Thompson jumps in the race, he'll either have to embrace traditional Republican stances or reject them. At that point, he'll alienate either the conservatives now swooning over him or the majority of voters, who are hankering for a change.

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