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March 27, 2007

T-T-T-T-Thompson

I'm rather surprised that floating Fred Thompson's name in a GOP poll nets him 12% of the vote. That suggests his name recognition is far higher than I suspected. Meanwhile, I'm much less sanguine than Matt about Thompson's chances. Matt seems to think Thompson's relative paucity of experience and lack of legislative accomplishments will grievously harm his chance, but then, Matt's among many Democrats who've been impressed by Obama despite his relative paucity of experience and lack of legislative accomplishments. This stuff just doesn't seem to matter. And Thompson's acting career, in which he plays presidents and other authoritative figures, is actually much better preparation for a presidential campaign than expanding SCHIP subsidies. Vast experience at projecting presidential virtue is certainly capable of besting actual presidential virtues.

Update: Matt's second argument on this is much more convincing. It's worth occasionally thinking through these issues in the context of who candidates would be vulnerable to, rather than what they'd be vulnerable on. Thompson, like many Republicans who served in Congress during the mid-90s, can be cut apart by a convincing domestic liberal like Edwards or Clinton who can effectively exploit his votes to cut Medicare. I'd be much less confident about the relevance of Obama's hopeful appeal in a matchup with Thompson, though. Conversely, I think Obama would be very strong against a seemingly moderate, genial type like Mitt Romney.

March 27, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

So you're *more* sanguine about his chances, right?

Posted by: david mizner | Mar 27, 2007 11:02:49 AM

My two favorite Thompson movie quotes:

"If you two wanna turn yourselves into a greasy spot out on a country road somewhere, go right ahead. I don't give a shit and I don't think anybody else does, but you two monkeys are not going to do it on my racetrack."

"What's his plan?
His plan?
Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan."

Sounds like presidential material to me!

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 27, 2007 11:10:04 AM

I think Matt's main argument against thompson is that he was in the congress at a time when Republicans held some votes that, in retrospect, are extremely difficult to justify and will likely leave a bad taste in a lot of peoples mouths come the general election.

Posted by: soullite | Mar 27, 2007 11:13:45 AM

This Thompson business is very confusing to me. Back in the day, weren't we worried about "true" conservatives like Frist, Allen and Santorum running for President? I had thought those names are no longer being thrown around because if a candidate can't somehow separate himself from Bush, he's dead in the water. I don't see how finding some Bush clone whose reputation wasn't destroyed by the administration (because no one has heard of him) is the magical answer to this. Explain to me how Thompson will respond to a "do we really want 8 more years of Bush?" ad.

This, by the way, is why I'm scared of Hagel. He's as conservative as the worst of them, but can run as an anti-war candidate, instantly separating himself from the disaster of the last 6 years. Of course, it would also be great for the country to have two (!) candidates who think eternal war is a bad policy.

Posted by: Sam L. | Mar 27, 2007 11:37:11 AM

This Thompson business is very confusing to me. Back in the day, weren't we worried about "true" conservatives like Frist, Allen and Santorum running for President? I had thought those names are no longer being thrown around because if a candidate can't somehow separate himself from Bush, he's dead in the water. I don't see how finding some Bush clone whose reputation wasn't destroyed by the administration (because no one has heard of him) is the magical answer to this. Explain to me how Thompson will respond to a "do we really want 8 more years of Bush?" ad.

This, by the way, is why I'm scared of Hagel. He's as conservative as the worst of them, but can run as an anti-war candidate, instantly separating himself from the disaster of the last 6 years. Of course, it would also be great for the country to have two (!) candidates who think eternal war is a bad policy.

Posted by: Sam L. | Mar 27, 2007 11:47:12 AM

As far as Thompson's limited senate experience, from what I remember he promised to stay for two terms and not run for the senate again. Wow, a politician who kept his promise. Unlike Obama, he has an honorable reason for lack of senate experience.

As far as his votes, Hillary and the rest have past actions and votes that will require a lot more splainin than Thompson's. Edward's trial lawyer days and Hillary's universal healthcare disaster in the early nineties(let alone her refusal to apologise for her Iraq war vote[to the wackjob base anyway])

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 27, 2007 12:08:51 PM

Great, another 'made-for-TV' prospect. Perfect for those section of our populus who desire a 'daddy' state.

Bush won because said voters liked a 'tough guy' who 'clears brush' and with whom 'I'd like to have a beer.'

Thompson may well have a great chance simply because he looks authoritative, is tall, and is well-spoken.

Sadly, and as has been pointed out here and elsewhere, it's not about ability, but is instead about (supposed) personality.

Posted by: terraformer | Mar 27, 2007 12:14:18 PM

An Obama-Thompson race would be interesting because it would essentially be a personality-off - may the best media-created image win. Like Obama, Thompson's only real selling point is his persona.

And note to Captain Toke: Edwards' experience as a trial lawyer is an asset with the electorate, not a liability.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 27, 2007 12:33:14 PM

Thompson may well have a great chance simply because he looks authoritative, is tall, and is well-spoken.

Can this be the new "damning praise" for white Republicans? "He's really articulate and a credit to his political party!"

Posted by: Tyro | Mar 27, 2007 12:51:03 PM

Thompson worries me because all the lofty talk about his stands on issues will be pointless when many people will think he has experience just because they've seen him on TV and he sounds authoritative; I'd worry a lot more than here has said so far about him being especially bulletproof to substantive arguments (like his Medicare votes) that are supposed to make him look bad. In that sense, he very scarily reminds me of Reagan, and suggests that Dems have learned next to nothing about the power of the image to trump the reality. The saving grace, I think, is that Thompson left the Senate out of boredom as much as anything, and he may not have the real stomach for a fight. And he could very easily get eviscerated in the primaries as the GOP eat their own and fail to unite behind anyone. As for Hagel, dream on - the conservative base loathes him, so unless he plans to run as an independent, he's toast in the primaries.

Posted by: weboy | Mar 27, 2007 1:05:04 PM

thompson's high visibility in acting make him the perfect republican candidate and frankly, he's as strong as anyone who has announced, within the republican party. Once you get outside the party it gets dicier.

Classic example; our cap'n'toke. He's ready to defend thompson.

All the rethug base is looking for is another codpiece that mouths the right dog whistle. The problem is, with thompson or any of the other candidates, what do you to distance yourself from the current corrupt, republican failures in office?

Posted by: ice weasel | Mar 27, 2007 1:50:47 PM

Of course, it would also be great for the country to have two (!) candidates who think eternal war is a bad policy.

This is why I'm not as scared of Hagel. Too many head-explodey Republicans after years of abusing him over the war. It would be like Lieberman running again: sure, he's right on some of the issues, but he's not on our side on the biggest one. And the war is definitely the biggest one for them too.

Unlike Obama, he has an honorable reason for lack of senate experience.

What are you implying, exactly? What hugely dishonorable thing has Obama done that has kept him from gaining that all-important experience? Except, well, be young I guess.

Posted by: Neal | Mar 27, 2007 2:01:56 PM

If one of the reasons senators are allegedly doomed in their quests for the presidency is their long record of possibly controversial votes, like Kerry, wouldn't a lack of such a record be a plus, like with someone such as Thompson?

Posted by: Brian | Mar 27, 2007 2:49:45 PM

Jason,

Do you really believe the damage that John Edwards and his ilk have done to health care is an asset?

It is because of people like him that health care is so expensive and you want to put him in charge of 'fixing' health care.

If you don't know what I am refering to, yahoo 'john edwards+c sections' or 'john edwards+channeling' or 'john edwards+junk science'. People like Edwards and Edwards himself have profited at the expense of American's health care.

Trial lawyers, for the most part, are scoundrels. But then again, so are most politicians.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 27, 2007 2:54:50 PM

What I'm saying is that "trial lawyer" is only considered a slur by a small segment of the electorate who will never vote Democrat anyway. I got the impression that you were saying that the mere fact of Edwards having been a trial lawyer will hurt him, which simply isn't true.

Now, if you're saying that Edwards's particular conduct as a trial lawyer will somehow hurt him, then I don't know, because I'm not familiar with the accusations.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 27, 2007 3:06:33 PM

"What I'm saying is that "trial lawyer" is only considered a slur by a small segment of the electorate who will never vote Democrat anyway."

I'd say the title 'trial lawyer' is a slur in a lot bigger segment than you might think.

Have you ever heard that joke about lawyers at the bottom of the ocean with the punch line "a good start"?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 27, 2007 3:14:23 PM

Cap'n, a much larger portion of the electorate has sued a company with the benefit of a lawyer than been sued by a lawyer.

I might add that even W had availed himself of the benefits of a lawyer to sue a rental car agency that he patronized.

YMMV given propaganda, of course (eg, many more people receive government benefits funded through estate taxes than pay estate taxes, but yet members of the public still fight for their repeal), but my point stands. Most everyone uses a lawyer. Far fewer people are ever served with a lawsuit.

Edwards' much larger stumbling block is that he seems to be perceived as a man who inappropriately crossed class lines to become successful.

Posted by: Tyro | Mar 27, 2007 3:47:39 PM

No one is imagining what Fred Thompson--a back-bencher and bit player--will look like next to Giuliani and McCain. Even with all their flaws as candidates, both have incredibly strong personalities and impressive accomplishments under their belts. And neither lacks stage presence, which at the moment seems to be Thompson's main selling point, other than actually being conservative. Even McCain, who these days looks like he recently weathered a mild stroke, still projects gravitas. This cancels out Thompson's greatest asset and essentially keeps him at the same level as Mike Huckabee, only, unlike Huckabee, he looks vaguely familiar. (Anyone who thinks Thompson has name recognition is overestimating Americans' interest in character actors and minor senators.)

Placed next to Giuliani and McCain and engaged in a serious debate over issues, Thompson will wither. He will look like an actor, a casting director's notion of what prosecutors and politicians look like, not a guy who's ever had a significant amount of power. He's never really stood in a national spotlight, and I suspect whatever allure he has will fade in the first primary debates. Some Republicans will swoon for him, but he'll never take the lead. He's kind of like a Republican Wesley Clark, another guy who seemed fit for the role of President but didn't have the political experience necessary to win it.

His only shot is if McCain goes ahead and has that stroke. Then it's him v. Giuliani and Romney, and then I give him better odds. Still, come to think of it, that could be likely. I don't mean to be ghoulish, but mark my words: McCain's health is the biggest hidden factor in the Republican race.

Posted by: Charlie | Mar 27, 2007 3:56:38 PM

Re: Edwards: this kind of thing is what I'm talking about:

"TIME's new poll also reveals that Edwards trial lawyer experience is a plus: 55% say it shows that Edwards fights for the average person against big companies, while only 26% say that his trial lawyering contributed to the frivolous lawsuit problem."


Re: Thompson: it wouldn't surprise me if the '08 GOP primary ends up being like the '04 Democratic` one, i.e. focused on "electability". I think that Republicans realize that this is no time for ideological purity. Thus you get frontrunners like Rudy, McCain, and perhaps now Thompson, who are all perceived as having broad appeal, while candidates pitching to the right like Romney are barely treading water.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 27, 2007 4:27:01 PM

Pfft. Giuliani? Whatever. On Bizarro-Earth, perhaps.

And what is this argument about having "experience" re Thompson....Bush has set that particular bar so low, Thompson easily exceeds that. Soft bigotry, etc. etc. Has everyone forgotten just how ill-qualified Bush was by dint of his lack of experience, ability to speak, and squinty-eyed creepiness, and how he got in anyway? Thompson is telegenic, can remember his lines, and has been in people's living rooms for the past 5 years. He worries me.

I can't believe so many still think that, for Republican-leaning types, actual skill and policy ideas counts for anything.

Posted by: emjaybee | Mar 27, 2007 5:57:28 PM

I should point out that I'm not necessarily saying that I think Giuliani or Thompson or anybody else is electable, but I suspect that the perception that they are is driving a lot of their support.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 27, 2007 6:50:44 PM

Thanks david mizner, I thought I was going crazy for a second.

Posted by: Kelly | Mar 28, 2007 11:19:31 AM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 27, 2007 3:12:13 AM

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