I have been struggling to really articulate my thoughts on a Fred Thompson candidacy, but here’s a go. This was, to some extent, precipitated by a conversation yesterday afternoon, this post of Michael Turk, and Thompson’s interview with John Fund.
First, there has been a push for a candidate because the top three are unsatisfactory to many conservatives, in any number of ways. Michael Turk described Mitt Romney as "a pandering fool." Conservative anxiety with John McCain is well-established. And Rudy Giuliani appears wrong on a number of important issues. Jonathan Martin detected a noticeable lack of enthusiasm last weekend in Iowa. Evidence of a deep void exists. This void was supposed to have been filled by George Allen. Romney tried to enter this void, but, perhaps in response to a Thompson entrance, he has shifted back to the pragmatic businessman stance from the newly-minted culture warrior.
Second, given the early start of most of the candidates, most of the conservative groups will have to close ranks behind Thompson quickly. There are several sides to this. Thompson will need to start raising money quickly. If he jumps in, look for magazines, websites, etc. to start praising him (I guess that they have during the "draft" phase) to start lining up readers and members. These groups will have to work double-time to move supporters into the Thompson column. I think it is important to point out that this is a candidate who, if he wins the nomination, will have been delivered by the conservative movement. Thompson will owe these groups for a victory like no other candidate.
Third, this will hurt other candidates. In the polls, this will, and has, hurt Rudy Giuliani. As the front-runner, Rudy is probably benefiting from a bit of a bandwagon effect. This will cut into those numbers, but he has to come down some. In that sense, this will probably have little long term impact on Rudy. On the other hand, in the "organization" race, I think that this will hurt Romney the most for several reasons. Many Tennessee people went over to Romney and will be under a lot of pressure to support Thompson. So Romney is likely to be hit with stories of people leaving him. And many of the conservatives that Romney tries to appeal to will move to someone who is both more credibly conservative and seemingly more electable. And it will make the endorsement and fundraising proposition for Romney harder. And, of course, it completely removes the rationale for Newt.
Fourth, look at the timing that is being discussed. Novak says June. This freezes the money and endorsement game for almost the entirety of Q2. As the Q1 fundraising numbers were being reported, the mantra was: Q2 CoH is the only number that matters. And now that whole environment is messed up.
I am still not fully convinced this is happening, although many seem quite sure. Look at how Zach Wamp describes, via Hotline, the timing issue:
“He said ‘I have the ability right now to do certain things you can’t as a candidate.’ And that’s why it’s special he’s doing it his way. He said ‘I’m not going to follow the consultants’ path here because they’ve been wrong too many times. I’m going to follow my heart and this is going to be a different approach and I think people are ready for a different approach. And that’s why I’m not here because I want to be here, I’m here because there’s a need.’ I really believe he thinks the man and the times are lining up.”
Isn’t he saying, "don’t talk to me about timing, I’m working on my own schedule?" Back off. How do we know he is really building an organization.
This is fascinating. I still do not know what is happening. But it will be fun to watch.