Back in the early days of the 2000 presidential campaign, right after John McCain beat George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary, there were many dire media predictions along the lines of, "If Bush doesn't turn things around quickly it could turn into a McCain rout."
I thought: What in heaven's name is going on here? Bush has all the endorsements, a terrific organization and wads of money. Could his candidacy be blasted out of contention by the machinations of the mainstream media?
Unfortunately for the media, the answer was no. Despite their best efforts, Bush regained his momentum in South Carolina -- which, of course, prompted charges of dirty dealing -- and went on to easily capture the nomination. Because once the process moved out of the realm of the polls and the punditry, conservative voters made their voices heard at the voting booth.
This time around, the nagging questions have returned. Before a vote has been cast or a caucus convened, pundits of all stripes are touting a two-candidate race between former governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, virtually ignoring worthies like Duncan Hunter (who is not campaigning in Iowa) and especially the eminently electable Fred Thompson.
It's enough to make one wonder: If a conservative makes a point and it's not acknowledged by the media, does he make a sound?
WHILE THIS TYPE of treatment from the liberal media is expected, it is profoundly disturbing to see "conservative" pundits ignore or dismiss Thompson's candidacy so lightly. Typical of this non-coverage for the true conservatives in the race is a piece in the Wall Street Journal which states: "None of the Republican presidential candidates have captured all three wings of the party's base: defense hawks, economic conservatives and social conservatives."
I'm not sure anymore what the Journal considers "conservative," but they might want to check out Thompson's latest video message to Iowa voters for a clue.
Likewise, even Fox News -- which is so feared by liberals as a right-wing organ that Democratic candidates are too cowed to even appear at its debates -- seems to be with the program. Although they do get air time, Hunter and Thompson have long been written off by Fox's Republican pundits.
And while it's certainly understandable that the leading candidates get the most attention, consider that Fox's own national poll has Thompson within 10 percent of the leader, Rudy Giuliani. Don't forget, Bush lost New Hampshire to McCain by nearly 20 points and still rebounded.
But in order to convince conservatives that they really know what's good for them, the media has dusted off its favorite Reaganism: that Thompson is lazy and worse; that he doesn't really "want" the job enough. In the eyes of the 24/7 cable news cyclists, this is the ultimate crime.
That a candidate would have the unmitigated gall not to mold his views, lifestyle and demeanor years in advance in order to conform himself to the Beltway press corps' idea of what is "presidential," is, in their eyes, unforgivable. Can Thompson's refusal to join Fox News' first debate last September be the reason for that network's cold shoulder toward him?
NO, CANDIDATES LIKE Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson don't have the "skill sets" necessary to please the national media, but instead, have what really matters: true conservative credentials. And make no mistake about it; conservatives are still the majority in the Republican Party.
These conservatives, many of whom were disappointed with President Bush in some areas, are not in the mood for any moderates or converts this time around. Surf the internet and check out the conservative forums, especially the granddaddy of them all, FreeRepublic.com, to see who garners the most support among them.
If voters have any say in elections anymore, the press may yet have to deal with men like Thompson, should their early attempts at marginalizing him fail.
The real reason many in the media -- left and right -- continue to ignore Thompson and proclaim that his candidacy is in its "death throes" is that he won't play their game. Whether or not the conservative base will survive this tactic and give the nomination to one of their own remains to be seen.
Thompson has declared coming in second in Iowa a "must" for him. Either he knows something we don't or maybe he believes the country really isn't ready for a presidential candidate who doesn't require the office like the air that he breathes:
As the man said, "Let the political world swirl around me and let everyone run their attack ads and spend their money and spin their wheels and all that. But I'm going to be the same. It's worked for me pretty well in my career, being Fred, and I'm going to continue to be Fred."