Some say he is the Republicans' Rorschach test: They all see in him what they crave. Or he might be the Republicans' dot-com bubble, the result of restless political investors seeking value that the untutored eye might not discern and that might be difficult to quantify but which the investors are sure must be there, somewhere, somehow.
One does not want to be unfair to Thompson, who may have hidden depths. But ask yourself this: If he did not look like a basset hound who had just read a sad story—say, "Old Yeller"—and if he did not talk like central casting's idea of the god Sincerity, would anyone think he ought to be entrusted with the nation's nuclear arsenal? He is an actor, and, as a Hollywood axiom says, the key to acting is sincerity—if you can fake that, you've got it made.
Like it or not, that's exactly what a lot of people think. Question one: what, or who, is Fred Thompson? Question two: given that we really don't know yet, is there any "there" there?
The danger? The longer that Fred Thompson remains the mystery "almost" candidate, others are going to try to frame and brand him. And naturally, given that he's a perceived threat, they're going to try to brand him in such a way that reflect negatively. Their hope is it will stick and become the conventional wisdom.
I would argue that the value of blogs changes over the course of a campaign. Initially, blogs can make major contributions by shaping narratives among the 'Influentials' (bloggers, journalists, pundits, etc), generating positive attention for their candidate and attracting activists. Towards the end of a campaign, with narratives already established and candidate-awareness taken care of, pushback and information distribution are the more valuable functions of a campaign blog.
If a campaign doesn't engage the New Media early on, there will be three major problems:
1) Unfavorable frames and narratives will be free to develop in the media seed-bed of the blogosphere. Once developed, they become conventional wisdom and are very difficult to rebut.
2) The campaign will sacrifice the opportunity to develop their own narratives, or to frame upcoming issues for the Influentials.
3) Once the campaign does enter the blogosphere, they will face an uphill battle to cultivate credibility, interest, activists and notoriety.
I think Jon's points are very well taken and on target. And while I certainly don't think that an entry into the race in July is "too late" for a candidate like Fred Thompson, I think the points Will makes and their danger are something the campaign needs to be aware of and begin working toward neutralizing quickly (and they may very well be engaged in exactly that right now). The last thing any potential candidate wants to see happen is to have their narrative dictated by others and become the conventional wisdom before they can even get out of the starting gate.
I think that this is too much emphasis on “narratives” as opposed to actual factual information on a candidate. Who cares what a “narrative” is if it doesn’t square with the facts?
“Narratives” are simply a creation from the deranged minds of wackos who represent just another form of wacko conspiracy theorists. There is no proof that they even exist or that they have any effect on the real world. Discussing them as if they really exist is a form of mental masturbation and just a waste of everyone’s time.
“There are problems with people giving politicians large sums of money and then asking them to pass legislation,” Mr. Thompson says. Still, he notes he proposed the amendment to raise the $1,000 per person “hard money” federal contribution limit. Conceding that McCain-Feingold hasn’t worked as intended, and is being riddled with new loopholes, he throws his hands open in exasperation. “I’m not prepared to go there yet, but I wonder if we shouldn’t just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately.”
If he continues in this vein, I will consider that serious mistep to be ameliorated. Were he not to act against the McCain-Feingold legislation in a first term, I would be much less inclined to see him in a second one.
My crystal ball says that in 2016 it will be Jeri Thompson ("Continue Fred’s successful policies") vs. Hillary Clinton ("Remember the Nineties"). The main issues will be 1) who best to stand up to the India/China Axis; 2) whether or not to join with EU/Britain/Russia/Canada/Australia or go it alone as Mexico/America; and whether or not to complete the southern border fence between Mexico and Guatemala to stop illegal immigration.