No, not the incoming planes low on fuel to Dulles Airport, but the forthcoming campaign stops in key early primary states. The announcement preceding the official Sept. 6th announcement is in the can, and Fred Thompson is about to put his electoral gambit to the test. We have had no shortage of opinions regarding whether Fred waited to long to formally announce his candidacy, or how he missed an opportunity to announce at the beginning of the summer to build on his early momentum. Forget about the FEC filing requirements that most assuredly entered Team Thompson’s calculus for deciding what time to make the formal announcement. The questions that remain – how fluid is the Republican side of electorate at this juncture, and does Fred have enough time to build his name and face recognition to primary voters, as he lags behind the top tier Republicans in these categories- these are the critical questions that will ultimately decide Fred’s fortunes. While Guiliani has remained fairly stable in his poll numbers over the summer, will Republican voters, when put to the test- go with a pro-choice candidate whose record on the 2nd amendment has been spurious at best? I don’t think they will do so, and conservatives are in the process of looking for that viable alternative to Rudy as we speak. In addition, Rudy, while being an individual of some very admirable qualities, was unfortunately a very polarizing and controversial figure during his years as NYC mayor prior to 9-11. Forget about his problematic personal issues- the sheer volume of opposition research relating to his official actions as mayor are just waiting to be dumped on his head, and this will be an enormous burden to his candidacy as it attempts to connect with moderates, independents, and undecideds. A Clinton-Giuliani general election campaign will probably result in one of the nastiest presidential campaigns waged since about, oh, 1884.
Fred, on the other hand, does not have anywhere near the the polarizing image or baggage that Giuliani carries, fair or unfair. Let’s be as fair as we can here- Rudy has been a warrior spokesman for the Republicans on the War on Islamofascism, but if Republican primary voters are smart, they will take that enormous baggage that Giuliani carries off the table, and nominate a candidate that will force Hillary to run on her positions, issues, and ideas- decidedly not her forte or a consistent record to run on- and not allow her to run against her opponent’s checkered personal backround and controversial tenure as mayor, and possibly allow her to gain her cherished victim status again in an all-out slugfest of attacks.
David Broder interviewed Fred back a few weeks ago, and this remarkable interview only confirmed the kind of campaign I expected Thompson to run. Conservatives such as myself are genuinely excited about his candidacy like no other- he’s truly a “movement” conservative who wants to “move” us back to our Federalist origins and restore fiscal sanity in our government. Thus far, I have not heard Fred Thompson go soft or squishy on one issue that mandates taking an unwavering principled stand, and it’s been quite refreshing to see Fred comfortably (and pleasantly) take these stands which cause liberals to spontaneously combust when exposed to them.
Win or lose, no one can rightfully say that Fred was “lazy”, “unambitious”, or “had no ideas”, all of which have been early criticisms of his unofficial campaign. Fred’s coming broadside into the entitlement and bureaucratic mess the federal government is in will be extraordinarily ambitious- but this type of platform may well be political suicide. Consider for a moment all of the interest groups that will demonize him should he ever get close enough to enacting such an agenda. Proposing an agenda that includes serious entitlement reform- spending cuts- reducing benefits- he is intentionally stepping on every “third rail” in politics. By any standard, this is going to be a bold and revolutionary platform- I can only hope his candidacy amounts to more than merely serving as a gadfly.
If Fred doesn’t win the nomination, I sincerely hope the other candidates get the message that we conservatives aren’t going to be satisfied with a candidate who merely “tinkers around the edges” of the mess we are in. For in the end, this is bigger than any one candidate- this is about the arena of ideas, the conflict of visions, and the struggle to preserve the freedoms that are preserved for us and our posterity in our Constitution. We need to ignite systemic change within the federal government- I can only hope that the winning Republican candidate comes to understand this, and brings to fruition what Fred Thompson already knows we have to do.
We’re behind you, Fred- and we are in this for the long haul.