Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Honey, he represents old-school politics. That's what people don't want."

OH, YES THEY DO! I said to my husband, after John McCain won the Southg Carollina Primary.

And I became a registered Republican after being a lifelong DEM in 2000 voting in the VA Primary for McCain.

But what will Fred Thompson do now while he goes back to McLean after losing SC? He knows his stuff - and he is NOT playing an Admiral, or a Senator or a DA - he is running for the office of President of the United States.
This piece (below) was written before the votes were in:
Anne Davies, Orangeburg, South Carolina. January 18, 2008

IT'S 6.30pm and Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson is doing his fourth meet-and-greet for the day, this time at a technical college in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

"What will you do after eight years in the White House?" one man asks, taking the 65-year-old candidate slightly off-guard. Was it the optimism inherent in the question? Or had Mr Thompson just been expecting a more conventional one about his right-to-life credentials or his commitment to low taxes?

"Law & Order," someone called out in the audience, drawing an enthusiastic murmur of yeses and a round of applause.

"You know, I've been amazed that they have been able to carry on without me. How's Sam Waterston going in the job? At least there are the re-runs," says Mr Thompson to some appreciative laughs.

And therein lies his problem. The laid-back former Tennessee senator turned actor is better liked for his fictional character than as a real-life candidate for president.

Sure, he's liked. How could you not like this gentlemanly giant of a man with southern manners and charm? But in this crowded field of Republican candidates, all vying for either the conservative Christian or conservative economic vote — or both — it's hard to rise above the pack.

The problem seems to be that Mr Thompson in real life is not much different from his fictional characters.\

He's made a name for himself playing stoic, unflappable leaders, such as Arthur Branch, the district attorney in Law & Order, or the Rear Admiral in The Hunt for Red October.

In this campaign, where Barack Obama is delivering fiery speeches that are being compared to those of John F. Kennedy, where war hero John McCain is being praised for his straight talk and former investment banker Mitt Romney is giving McKinsey-esque presentations, Mr Thompson's good-ol'-boy approach feels like he's got the volume turned down.

It's a far cry from the high hopes the Christian conservative Right had for him when, after months of procrastination, he entered the race late — last September — and immediately jumped to a close second at 26%. Since then, though, it's been a steady slide downhill until last month he seemed to bottom out at just 6%.

Exactly who will get the nod in South Carolina is not quite clear. The latest Reuters/Zogby poll, taken before Mr Romney's win in Michigan, has Senator McCain in the lead with 29%, followed by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee with 23% and Mr Romney at 13%. Mr Thompson was at just 12%.

All that could change thanks to the lift that Mr Romney may get out of Michigan.

But after the wrong predictions in New Hampshire, who would believe the polls? No one is game to write Mr Thompson off completely because he is a southerner talking to his own kind.

A win by Mr Thompson would leave the Republican race, already in a state of flux, even more wide open — a win to Mr Huckabee in Iowa, a win to Senator McCain in New Hampshire, a win to Mr Romney in Michigan. It has also left the door open to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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