Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

The case for and against Fred Thompson

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Via Ezra comes this analysis from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson:

There is a sense among Republicans that Thompson could stand toe to toe with with the big boys thanks to his star power and personal magnetism. The politician-turned-actor is a well-known face to many Americans from his role as Arthur Branch on the television show “Law and Order.” Don’t underestimate star power as a factor in politics….Americans are easily starstruck, and Thompson, frankly, looks the part of a president…Thompson’s decision to retire from the Senate in 2002 rather than seek another term is also a blessing in disguise when it comes to the 2008 presidential race…By walking away from a sure-thing second term in 2002, Thompson reinforced that populist image. He also spent the next five years outside of Washington as his party steadily lost the trust of the American public…The final piece of the Thompson puzzle is money…Lucky for Thompson that his home state is renowned for its willingness to donate to political candidates….Baker, Frist and Alexander are intimately involved in the recruitment of Thompson and would undoubtedly bring their financial networks to bear on his behalf — ensuring a solid financial base on which to build a national campaign. Combine Thompson’s capacity for fundraising in his home state with his starpower and his acceptability to social conservatives and you have a package that no other candidate in the field offers.

Jasper isn’t so sure. To me, Thompson seems like a decent, intelligent human being. There’s a certain dignity to him (a quality that’s, er, lacking in certain other unnamed personages), and that’s why he’s so popular in GOP circles. It’s not just fear of losing the White House and a consequent desire to nominate a strong candidate — it’s a reaction (conscious or otherwise) to the almost surreal awfulness of the current administration.

That said, I doubt Thompson is the GOP’s best bet. He might well prove formidable in the primaries (that is, among registered Republicans) but I think in the general election the GOP is headed for real trouble in places like Ohio, Colorado and Florida (ie., purple states). They need a centrist, or someone who can at least be spun as one.

Popularity among dispirited right wingers should not be confused with appeal to the broad middle.

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Written by Jasper

March 20, 2007 at 12:05 am

Posted in Election 08, Politics

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