Actor and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson has apparently finished hiding his skeletons, and is now ready to enter the race. He's widely expected to make a formal announcement July 4th. Meanwhile he's hiring staff and raising money. The Tennessean.com has a nice roundup.
Fred Thompson's red campaign pickup truck, made famous by his successful 1994 U.S. Senate run, is ready once again to leave the driveway. This time, it's pointed toward the White House.[...]
Thompson confirmed in an interview with USA Today published online Wednesday that he would seek the GOP nomination for president, setting the wheels in motion to transform the Law & Order star from a shadow campaigner into a viable candidate. An official announcement is expected around July 4, according to several published reports.
The news came one day after a Tuesday conference call with 100 fundraisers from Tennessee and across the country. The goal was for each person to raise close to $50,000.
The Red Pickup:
Rumors that Thompson intends to rely heavily on the internet for low-cost, low-effort high-result campaigning are well-founded, and we keep hearing about the infamous red pickup truck that Thompson used to phony up his "everyman" stand with his Tennessee constituency. The red pickup truck was nothing more than an actor's prop:
Way back in 1996, Michelle Cottle explained the reality.
True story: it is a warm evening in the summer of 1995. A crowd has gathered in the auditorium of a suburban high school in Knoxville, Tennessee. Seated in the audience is a childhood friend of mine who now teaches at the school. On stage is Republican Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson, the lawyer/actor elected in 1994 to serve out the remainder of Vice President Al Gore's Senate term (when Gore's appointed successor retired after just two years). The local TV stations are on hand as Thompson wraps up his presentation on tax reform, in the plain-spoken, down-to-earth style so familiar to those who have seen him in any of his numerous film and television performances.
Finishing his talk, Thompson shakes a few hands, then walks out with the rest of the crowd to the red pickup truck he made famous during his 1994 Senate campaign. My friend stands talking with her colleagues as the senator is driven away by a blond, all-American staffer. A few minutes later, my friend gets into her car to head home. As she pulls up to the stop sign at the parking lot exit, rolling up to the intersection is Senator Thompson, now behind the wheel of a sweet silver luxury sedan. He gives my friend a slight nod as he drives past. Turning onto the main road, my friend passes the school's small, side parking area. Lo and behold: There sits the abandoned red pickup, along with the all-American staffer.
Thompson didn't have an old red pickup, he leased it as a campaign prop. He didn't even drive the thing -- as Kevin Drum recently noted, "Basically, he just drove the thing the final few hundred feet before each campaign event, and then ditched it for something nicer as soon as he was out of sight of the yokels."
Thompson enters the race nicely positioned in the polls, pulling more votes from Giuliani than the others -- and appears poised to pull donations from Sen. McCain's already floundering campaign.
As we wrote earlier today, McCain could be the biggest loser with Fred Thompson establishing a "testing the waters" committee, because he will begin gobbling up GOP money that McCain needs for a strong 2nd quarter fundraising performance. But NBC/WSJ pollster Neil Newhouse (R) tells First Read that Thompson pulls more from Giuliani -- at least in the polls.
In the April NBC/WSJ poll, Giuliani led McCain among GOP voters, 39%-24%, with Romney at 12%. But with Thompson on the ballot, Giuliani was at 33%, McCain at 22%, Thompson at 17%, and Romney at 12%.
Moreover, among GOP voters who said they were "dissatisfied" with the GOP field were initially voting for Giuliani by 29%-25%-11% over McCain and Romney. But on the second ballot, those who said they were "dissatisfied" with the field had Thompson out in front 29%-22%-20%-10% over Giuliani, McCain, and Romney.
Says Newhouse: "So, it appears Fred pulls more from Rudy ... whose support has been buttressed by GOP voters who are not all that satisfied with the GOP field."
At least the race for the Republican nomination will get interesting now. Having a bona fide phony in the race will provide hours of entertainment as we watch the remaining viable Republican candidates saw away at the Fred Thompson legend.
Hopefully, Thompson will do more than just show up with his carpetbag of props and act his way through campaign appearances. America wants change, and if Thompson doesn't engage the voters from day one, and convince them that he's an agent of change, they'll be turning the channels faster than you can ditch a red pickup.
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