Ah, Fred! You just underestimated the challenge.
Fred Thompson was one of the only Republican candidates who could shoulder the mantle of Ronald Reagan. In spite of a couple of lapses -- he did vote for McCain-Feingold -- he was the true Conservative's Conservative.
We all know about Thompson's various careers. He was an accomplished attorney, working in Washington DC during the Watergate days. He was also a fine character actor, playing many side roles in Hollywood movies, as well as his most famous role, the crusty, laconic, Southern-born district attorney in TV's Law and Order.
And, in 1994, he was elected to the Senate, taking Al Gore's seat from Tennessee. True to the promises of the Contract With America, he term limited himself, leaving after only two terms to go back to acting.
This year, Thompson decided he was needed. He announced his candidacy for the White House.
Fred Thompson's campaign, however, was a bit odd. He didn't campaign as actively as other candidates. He kept an unusually low profile. It was almost as if he really didn't care if he won or lost the nomination. In fact, one news report actually claimed that he'd said he really didn't care.
Regardless, whatever he was looking to do in the primaries, he dropped out of the race. Now, the question is, who does he throw his support to?
Watching earlier debates, I was impressed with the way he stood forthright for his principals, never wavering, never equivocating. He spoke with a Southern charm and directness that was refreshing in this age of "packaged" candidates. One wag referred to him as "A Southern fried Reagan".
Fred Thompson, like Reagan, spoke, not to the pundits or the press, but directly to the American people. He stated his case for Conservatism in plain, unadorned language. And he had little time for the flip flopping, populism, or Big Government Republicanism of his opponents.
His best quote from the campaign was about the flip flops of other candidates: "I'm a firm believer in conversion, but they're wearing out the Road to Damascus."
Thompson wouldn't let Rudy Giuliani claim that New York City wasn't a "sanctuary city", pointing out that Giuliani fought to have a law banning that practice unconstitutional. He called Mike Huckabee out on his tax and immigration policies as governor of Arkansas. And John McCain wasn't allowed to white wash his record either. Firm, direct, polite, and to the point, Thompson gently flayed them all for their pretensions.
Among true Conservatives, Fred Thompson was the only true heir to Reagan. He was a staunch defender of Life, national security, our border's integrity, and the capitalist system that has made America the single best country in the history of the world.
All that said, he ran a lackluster, at best, campaign. His appearances were too few, his fund-raising anemic and his style too non-confrontational. Although he had the respect and loyalty of the Conservative faithful, he failed to capitalize on it. The complaint seemed to be "He just doesn't have that fire in his belly."
Then there were the early primary states. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina were tailor made for Huckabee and McCain. These states have open primaries, allowing Democrats and Independents to vote for Republicans. With these states all but guaranteeing a Thompson loss, his campaign, already sputtering, just died out from lack of interest.
Fred Thompson earned his place among the also-rans, but not because of his small stature. Fred is a man of substance and style.
I guess that news report was right: He really didn't want the job badly enough!
Copyright Jan. 22nd, 2008