Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is by all accounts doing extremely well in yet another phase of his career: a regular TV gig on Law and Order, and an ABC radio gig subbing for Paul Harvey.
Thompson chose not to seek a third term in the Senate back in 2002, but his combination of star power, common-sense approach to policy and issues, and gravitas has placed him -- along with Jeb Bush -- on a conservative wish list for those not happy with the current crop of Republican presidential candidates in 2008.
Now there is this little item that popped up in the latest edition of U.S. News.
On the eve of the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., it seemed timely. More interesting has been the quick pushback from both the McCain and Romney camps about talk of Thompson perhaps dipping his toe in the presidential campaign pool.
"He's not going to do it, we've been assured of that," says one John McCain adviser in Washington. "Senator McCain thinks the world of Fred Thompson. They are friends. They've talked." But Thompson has not endorsed McCain.
A Mitt Romney adviser says: "We've heard that he isn't interested, but even if he was it wouldn't matter; we're focused on Governor Romney's campaign and getting his message to as many Americans as possible."
According to sources familiar with Thompson's thinking, he is not at this moment looking to enter the race. And while there is talk in the media of a "Draft Fred" movement afoot, Thompson seems to be focused on a bigger picture right now.
"Sure, he's hearing the talk about unhappiness with the current field of candidates," says a Thompson supporter, "but he's just as concerned about how the Republican Party got to this point, and where conservatives can take the party moving forward. He sees a dearth of up and comers out in the statehouses, and he sees a dearth of ideas. If nothing else, I think he wants to get conservatives and the GOP back on track."
It isn't just politicals who are talking up Thompson. According to RNC fundraisers we've spoken with over the past couple of months, Thompson is someone mentioned as a prospective candidate by some West Coast and Southern party money men who would like to see him enter the race.
"He's a bankable name on a couple of different levels. Donors love to have him at fundraisers," says one Chicago-based RNC donor.
But Thompson isn't entirely beloved by all. Take this post (par. 7) from the Huffington Post.
Never mind that it's wrong: Thompson in fact was a successful prosecutor as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and his work during Watergate and the Clinton impeachment was highly regarded, but Thompson clearly represents the kind of candidate that threatens the left: likable, solidly conservative, and perhaps most important, electable.
"Senator Thompson is one of those guys, who when you hear him speak, you ask, 'Why isn't he running for something?'" says another supporter. "You just can't help it. We need him out there, if not running, then at least helping."
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