Fred for real or a stalking horse?

Jen Rubin captures the most important dynamic leading into South Carolina:

Thompson gave himself an opening in South Carolina and gave conservatives a place to jump from the Romney leaking ship. He may have scuffed up Huckabee sufficiently to allow either himself or McCain to win SC. If the latter he ironically would have done his old friend the greatest of favors. (Perhaps one he might remember when it comes to filling VP slots should he get that far.)

Fred Thompson could be in a place to split the South Carolina conservative vote, especially with this nasty anti-Mike Huckabee ad running.

A John McCain win in Michigan, followed by Thompson knee-capping Huckabee in South Carolina could lead to a pretty positive place for McCain.

Fred giving up?

Fred Thompson seems to be throwing himself under the bus. From ABC in Iowa:

By declaring that he needs to do better than he’s polled for months, Thompson risks setting a bar so high for himself that a third-place victory — which would be something of an achievement for his struggling campaign — is a self-imposed disappointment. Under his own rules, Thompson could beat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the caucuses and still be setting himself up to drop out of the race.

Tancredo endorsement

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder hears interesting whispers on this endorsement:

Will he endorse? Unclear. If he does, the betting is on Thompson or Romney, although advisers to both men expect the other to get it, if it’s gettable. Note that Bay Buchanan is a member of the LDS church and is said to be pushing Tancredo to endorse Romney as a way of repudiating Huckabee, somehow. We’ll see.

So the word is that Tom Tancredo is dropping out this afternoon. That’s the good news. There is some speculation that he will endorse, although Marc Ambinder, who is smarter than me, thinks that he will not.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Tanc only has two kinds of juice left.

1a. He can provide a good press day for someone. The question is whether he blows his wad today or after Christmas. If I am getting the endorsement and I don’t need a big kick of momentum, I probably want it after Christmas. On the other hand, a Thursday endorsement may be the last real story going into Christmas. Scheduled at 3pm EST to guarantee that it is talked about on the afternoon talk shows and it is hard to get other stories in. That sounds to me like an endorsement of someone else.

1b. He provides a potentially solid endorsement for the xenophobic crowd. Of course, Tancredo has real baggage (crazy mecca comments, crazy xenophobia, etc.), so mileage may vary.

2. Mitt Romney needs a good press day. I have been hearing that he will get the endorsement. The entire Colorado GOP establishment is backing Romney. Tancredo would actually be helping Romney in Iowa. And if the rumors about Steve King are true, it would seem that Romney would be the natural choice of King’s buddy Tanc. Of course, in the past, Tancredo’s campaign has accused Romney of supporting amnesty. Furthermore, if Tancredo believes that Romney will be the nominee, a very credible position right now, then Tancredo can be there for Romney at the right time.

3. Fred Thompson. If Tancredo wants to help make the Fred Thompson boom happen, here’s his chance. Fred’s numbers aren’t taking off too much. He would need it. Of course, Tancredo would be wondering if it would be wasted.

My gut is Romney. I have a lot of trouble figuring out what Thompson is telling people with interest groups, not bloggers, who are endorsing him.

Fred’s all in?

The Weekly Standard in reporting through a blog and a story that Fred Thompson is "all in" in Iowa. From the story, the operative quote appears to be:

"Iowa is critical to our campaign, and it may in fact be everything to our campaign," says one Thompson official. "If we don’t do what we need to do in Iowa, it will be tough to compete effectively down the road."

"What we need to do" appears to be "come in third":

Thompson has said publicly that he needs to finish in the top three in Iowa. Campaign officials say that a strong third place finish–presumably behind new frontrunner Mike Huckabee and former frontrunner Mitt Romney–would likely give them enough momentum to survive New Hampshire and compete in South Carolina and beyond. A second place finish would be a victory. "Just when the interest is there the greatest, is when we’ll be here the most."

Of course, Fred’s problem is that he has nothing in New Hamsphire, Michigan, or Nevada. He needs some indication of his viability going into South Carolina .  Can we take this to mean that Fred will be "all out" on Jan. 4 if this doesn’t happen?

Birth of a meme: Huck as the real Fred

Well, something weird is happening. People seem to think that Mike Huckabee is what Fred Thompson could have been. I think that a meme is born.

JPod:

Simple: Don’t think of Mike Huckabee as Mike Huckabee. Think of Mike Huckabee as Fred Thompson. Huckabee is filling the role Fred Thompson entered the race in September to fill. He is the socially conservative Southern pro-life candidate with a silver tongue and a pleasingly low-key affect.

Or Jim Geraghty quoting Scott Rasmussen:

I spoke to Rasmussen about Huckabee’s rapid rise yesterday, and our chat can be found here. Key quote: "Had anybody else resonated with GOP primary voters, this would have been impossible. What Mike Huckabee is doing is validating the dream of Thompson’s supporters –  that there was a vacuum or void in the race, but Thompson didn’t grab it for whatever reason."

My lunch partner said it slightly differently. There was a demographic that was frustrated, especially after Fred went nowhere.

While I see the logic in all of this, I do think that something else is going on with Huckabee. After all, Fred supporters didn’t want a soft-on-immigration populist who could change the party. They wanted to keep the whole game together. Somehow, I don’t think that’s Huckabee’s game.

UPDATE: Really a clarification. I want someone soft on immigration. Huck’s answer at the debate was brilliant.

Thompson on Security and Unity

Fred Thompson’s campaign’s motto is "Prosperity, Security, Unity". He addressed the first of these during his main speech to the Americans for Prosperity. He addressed the other parts during a speech to the Virginia delegation.

Nothing special, but interesting to see the rest of his message.

I was struck, again, by how much the crowd wants to like him. He did pretty well with this event. He got a big rousing standing ovation.

Fred Thompson speaks to AFP

The first thing I notice. He is the first candidate to come up with his wife. She walks away. And AFP messes up the music. But the crowd is attentive. I think that the people here want to believe in him and support him.

He just mislead the audience. He talked about his first time here as when he was in the Senate. Of course, he was a lobbyist here. And a staffer. That’s silly.

I am just hearing platitutdes.

That said, I like the stuff about corporate tax rates. That’s really important stuff.  But why 28%? What’s the principle?

Now he talks about mandatory spending. This is important. He is willing to talk about the real issues on this stuff. This is completely necessary for our country.

And the need to simplify the tax code. All true, but what’s the structure here? Why isn’t the corporate tax stuff combined with this?

Again, the crowd responded. I am in a side room watching on video. And people clapped at the end. For a guy down the hall. Interesting.

What Would Romney Do?

Reading the morning news, this little vignette about Fred Thompson at the Iowa Christian Alliance meeting struck me:

At one point in the receiving line, a man’s Huckabee sticker fell off while he was shaking Thompson’s hand, so the former Senator picked it up and playfully slapped it back onto the man’s chest.

This seems to capture Thompson perfectly: gentlemanly, courteous, etc. I wondered what other candidates would do? What would Mitt Romney do? Maybe he would crack a weak joke or just ignore it. Maybe, internally, he would attribute it to the "family poltergeist that has haunted my ancestors for generations."