Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thompson Entry Temporarily Riles GOP Side of Race

Actor/Senator Fred Thompson's signal that he will run for the GOP presidential nomination was surely not unexpected, but it does cement one more piece of the 2008 electoral puzzle.

We previously predicted that both Thompson and, later this year, Newt Gingrich, will run on the Republican side, while we continue to believe that Thompson's Tennessee colleague Al Gore will not run on the Democratic side.

Thompson will get a temporary boost in the polls from making it clear he really intends to run. Right now, he polls at about 10 percent nationally amongst likely Republican primary voters and caucus goers, and at about 7-9 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the low teens in South Carolina and Florida. We think he'll go as high as 15 percent nationally in some polls, and he may break out in South Carolina and/or Florida as a top two candidate.

But then, folks will get to know more about him and he'll fade back into the high single digits. Thompson's biggest problem is laziness. Not lazy like the Curmudgeon, who likes to play a round of golf every now and then, and thinks of blogging as "work", but lazy compared to the other candidates who are running.

Thompson has hinted that he'll run a more national campaign, utilizing the internet, rather than engaging in the exhausting process of "retail" politics in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. He also shows some disdain for flying about doing fundraisers, which just happens to be a great way to motivate your supporters. In other words, Thompson wants to sit around HQ and direct his campaign, rather than hang out in the field. We doubt that's a recipe for success, but who knows--with the primary schedule so front-loaded, maybe it will work.

Republicans will also see that Thompson isn't Ronald Reagan (indeed, Ronald Reagan wasn't Ronald Reagan, just like JFK wasn't JFK--they get bigger in death) and he really isn't all that different from the other candidates. Nor is he likely to break out in national head-to-head polls as someone who can beat the leading Democrats.

Right now, the Republicans remind us of where the Dems were in 2003--facing a mushy field of uninspiring candidates, with the mainstream trying to pick someone who could win, while the not insignificant fringe looks for someone given to the cause.

Once Gingrich joins the race this fall, it will be even more muddled, to the point that we wonder if this will be the first year since 1952 when Republicans show up at their national convention without a nominee locked into place. That would certainly be exciting--indeed, in '52 Ike made a deal with California Governor Earl Warren to get his delegates, which put Ike over the top and put Warren in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Practically anything can happen at a deadlocked convention. (It could happen on the Dem side, too, but we'd lay greater odds, at least for now, on the GOP side.)

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