The Four-Point Fred Thompson
by Ric Caric, Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:52:03 PM EDT
Fred Thompson's unannounced but in the race. He's going to be a contender for the Republican nomination. What does he bring to the table for the Republican nomination? There are four big items.
1. THE SOUTHERN SLOT. There was no major Southern candidate for the GOP nomination. So Tennessee-born Fred Thompson filled a hole in the Republican field. Of course, Mike Huckabee, James Gilmore, and Ron Paul are Southern as well, but they're all minor candidates. From Thompson already had more support than the other three put together the day after he announced that he was thinking about running.
But the South is bigger and more heavily populated than most people think? As a result, Thompson's regional base is much larger than McCain's, Romney's, or Giuliani's. Generally, the South is thought of as the eleven former Confederate states plus the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland. But the stereotype is wrong. The South includes much of southern Ohio, southern Illinois, southern Indiana, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Of course, some parts of the cultural and political South have defected, including the Washington, DC suburbs and the Miami region in Florida. Nevertheless, Fred Thompson's regional clout would be extensive in both the primary and the general election.
2. THE CORPORATE SHILL. Thompson was a corporate lobbyist for eighteen years and there are already reports that reducing corporate taxes is a significant part of his agenda. Like Mitt Romney then, Fred Thompson would be a candidate of big business and could be expected to pursue the tremendously profitable agendas of social security privatization, free market health plans, shifting the tax burden from capital to consumption, big-ticket defense spending, and reducing business regulation. Certainly, a Fred Thompson presidency would follow the Bush administration in making sure that unions, consumer groups, environmentalists, and victims of business abuse did not have a seat at the table. With this combination of big region affiliation and corporate backing, Thompson starts from a stronger base than the Arizona maverick John McCain even though McCain has a much more impressive political record. Although not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Fred Thompson inherits much of his political support.
3. THE RED-MEAT CONSERVATIVE. Thompson has also shown a lot of gusto for attacking conservative bogeymen like Hugo Chavez and Michael Moore in his radio commentaries and op-eds for TownHall.com, and blogging. Thompson tosses out red-meat to conservative activists better than the other Republican candidates. Pressing the pleasure buttons of the right will be a big advantage in Republican primaries because it's the right that provides a big chunk of the passion, the money, and the ground troops for Republican campaigns.
4. THE ACTOR. Conservative commentators focus a great deal on Thompson's charm and the idea of Thompson "looking" and "sounding" presidential. And Thompson's prospective candidacy is being pounded for its superficiality in the liberal blogosphere. Nevertheless, a candidate's ability to sell himself as a "man" is important to Republican chances in 2008. With the war in Iraq going badly, the on-going Justice Department and Jack Abramoff scandals, and the Bush administration's poor over-all reputation, any Republican candidate is going to have to sell something besides a Republican agenda to general election voters. With his actor's ability, Thompson stands a chance of selling his manly personato enough weak Republicans, independent voters, and wayward Democrats to off-set popular hostility to the Bush administration. Selling themselves as "men" was important to the success of Ronald Reagan and George Bush (although Bush promoted himself more as a "guy"). It will be even more important to any Fred Thompson candidacy.
Needless to say, Fred Thompson has a lot of negatives. Thompson had an indifferent Senate career and a reputation for a weak work ethic. Much of Thompson's lobbying career was spent chasing skirts and he's married to a woman who looks like a bimbo stereotype and is 25 years younger than him. Above all, Thompson would have the Bush albatross hanging around his neck. Whatever weaknesses Thompson has, however, he does have significant strengths and people on the left need to be aware of those strengths.