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Not that Luntz is predicting any particular victor. “Too many variables,” he said. “States come [to the polls] too quickly. I have no pattern; I have seen too many candidates rise and fall.”
But that’s exactly Thompson’s point. “You remember President Howard Dean, don’t you?” he frequently asks, rhetorically, about the December campaign favorite four years ago who quickly flamed out.
Thompson could also remind people of how another conservative actor with a maddeningly languid early campaign pace, Ronald Reagan in 1979-80, allowed the elder George Bush to grab the “Big Mo”mentum from him — before just a few weeks of earnest, person-to-person campaigning by Reagan stopped Bush cold.
The Thompson-Reagan comparison has been made far too often, but in one respect the likeness is valid: Just as Thompson appears to do today, Reagan had a notable tendency to coast along until seriously challenged. Reagan, though, could turn on his jets just in time for maximum impact. Can Thompson do likewise? Thompson plans a rigorous 15-day bus tour through Iowa before the caucuses there, and seems confident in his retail campaigning abilities.
But Thompson refuses to be hurried. He also refuses to change his stripes. In an exclusive interview Dec. 6, when asked whether he needs to make a new, big splash in order to recapture voters’ imaginations, he insisted that “you should not expect dramatically different messages from me or dramatically different behavior from me…. I will not change what my message has been since 1994.”
On substance, that message has just about everything to make the old Reagan coalition swoon. Tax cuts and simplification? Check. Record of fighting wasteful spending? Check. More money for the military? Check. Returning power to the states? Consistent votes against abortion? Support for solidly conservative judges? Almost-visceral support for Israel? Support for private gun rights? Check, check, check, check, and check.
In recent weeks, Thompson has added depth to those conservative bona fides. His series of detailed papers on defense, taxes, and Social Security have earned widespread praise from conservative outlets, including the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. On the politically risky issue of Social Security, Luntz says his focus groups show that Thompson uses effective language: “The way that he looks at it is that we have to protect our children from ourselves. It is an intergenerational approach and it is very popular among Republicans.”
But what really animates Thompson is the battle against terrorism. On this topic, his obvious passion equals that of his friend John McCain. Indeed, it is difficult for an interviewer to get him off the subject.
“I understand the nature of the threat we are facing internationally in large part because of my service on the intelligence committee and my travel around the world meeting with foreign leaders,” Thompson said. “Also, my service as chairman of the government affairs committee dealing with issues of nuclear proliferation, and finally on the international security advisory board for the State Department. Condoleezza Rice asked me to chair that board….”
Thompson was just getting started.
But he can’t put that passion for a strong military posture into action if he doesn’t first catch political fire again. Yet nothing can budge him from his belief, no matter what the polls say, that he is on the right course as the only candidate acceptable simultaneously to all facets of the old Reagan coalition while exhibiting none of the sharp edges that scare voters in the middle. It’s the same sort of campaign George Allen seemed poised to run, the sort of campaign many thought would make Allen a solid winner until he forgot to focus first on being re-elected in Virginia.
“I think Republicans are going to want someone who can unify the Republicans and who can appeal to independent votes in November,” Thompson said, leaving no doubt that he thinks only he can fill that bill. Meanwhile, Fred Thompson just keeps ambling along.p> ***** br> So there you have it. Even in noting Thompson’s many strengths, I sort of hedged my bets. But here’s the deal: As Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee savage each other about immigration, abortion, religion and everything else under the sun, Thompson just keeps plugging away while being poised to pick up the pieces. And as Huckabee finally receives the long-overdue scrutiny for his bad record on clemencies (see my colleague Philip Klein’s
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online