Assessing Fred Thompson - my somewhat contrarian position Posted by: Billy Hollis
on Monday, December 31, 2007
Among the political pontificators, even on the Republican side, I have seen many people count Fred Thompson out of the presidential race. (Even our own McQ and Dale Franks seem rather pessimistic.)
Maybe they're right. But I'm not nearly that pessimistic. No votes have been cast. There is nothing to go on but but polls of people who aren't really paying that much attention right now, and even there he is polling middle of the pack. I would have thought that Dean in 2004 would have given the political pundits a lesson in just how wrong they could be. I've already written about how much unpredictability the entire process has in it.
Despite all that, right now lots of the "experts" are telling us how Fred has mismanaged his campaign, he doesn't have a chance, he's a lazy campaigner, and on and on. But if the voters put Fred in third place in Iowa, hey, he's in the race. Period. If they give him a top two, which I think is possible if Huckabee melts down the way he very well might, then those same pundits will probably start taking about what a smart campaign Fred is running. (For completion, if Fred bombs badly in Iowa, he's got one slim chance left in South Carolina, and that's it.)
If Fred does finish near the top in Iowa, I'd expect McQ, Dale, and a few others to express surprise, and say "Well, I missed the boat on that one". But I don't think that would be the standard pundit response if Fred moves towards the top of the pack.
The same ones who earlier said he was a lazy campaigner would would no doubt praise his ability to stay "under the radar" to the critical point in the campaign, and "stay focused on the voters instead of the horserace". They would hail a "new way of approaching presidential campaigns." We would hear how "Refusing to kowtow to a debate moderator will henceforth be an acid test of leadership." Those guys are so predictable, I could almost write a pastiche of their potential future columns right now.
Let me reiterate: I don't know whether Fred's going to make a serious impact on the race or not. Taking the polls all together, the race looks wide open to me, so I don't think it's unrealistic. I originally thought Guiliani was the strongest guy in the race, but he looks weaker as time goes by. Huckabee always looked to me like a flash in the pan. Romney isn't doing badly, but he's also taking the brunt of attacks from other candidates, and I'm still not convinced Southern voters are going to get excited about a Massachusetts governor.
But there is one thing that's clear to me. Fred decided very early that he would not play by other people's rules. More specifically, that he would not play by the nebulous, self-serving rules laid down by the media, the political consultants, and the rest of the Beltway collective. I think he decided he would either win on his own terms, or lose if the whole process is so rotten that you have to be a McCain/Hillary power-lusting type to win it.
I commend that approach. I'm sick of politics as usual. I'm not in line with Fred on every position he takes, but I like most of what I hear, and I really like the fact that he's not doing the standard Washington two-step to avoid taking a stand on major and divisive issues. I like the fact that he puts out 16 minute videos to explain what he's thinking instead of just one minute commercials. I take some solace from the fact that folks like Peter Robinson over at the Corner says "Even at this late hour, I wouldn’t count Fred out."
Perhaps my own perception that he's not out of the race is colored by the fact that I want him to do well, to prove that we don't have to be saddled with plastic, flip-flopping Romneys or populist Huckabees or McCains with their "great-man" complex.
But no matter what the outcome, someone needs to be in there experimenting with different ways to campaign and lead. We need that. I would commend even a failed effort by Thompson, because others would learn from what he tried that didn't work. If Thompson falters, perhaps a Tom Coburn will learn from that and come forth in 2012.
Win or lose, I'm happy Fred's in the race, and the better he does, the better I will like it.
I think what most of the press misses is that most of us are sort of going around querying the different candidate positions at this point... initially Rudy G. was thrust down our throat, so I looked him up - decided he’s fatally flawed and I don’t align with his plans so I looked further... checked on Mitt, his position seems to be the poll of the day, I liked him better than Rudy but... it was time to move on, checked on Huckabee - on the surface very likeable... even said for a while he was kind of my first choice - but as I dug deeper - alot of issues emerged - he is in my book on par with Mitt - but still not what I would call my choice... I like McCain in many respects but honestly think he’s too old in general I’ve been moving through all the candidates - Fred included, so far Fred is my favorite as well. I’ve done the same with the Dems, the only one that I’d come close to supporting is Richardson - but even there he’s really only over Ron Paul for me... Fact is I’m the type that’s looking for where the candidate stand on the issues - my favorite Major Media tool was an MSNBC thing where they had 5 major issues and a brief text on each candidates major opinion on that topic in a grid - was informative (to a minor degree) and helped me focus on which candidate aligned with my issues - of course they kept hiding the dang thing...
The whole idea of the primaries is for the candidates to educate us on themselves... For our part, as they tell us their positions, anyone who is actually looking should change their mind at least twice on which candidate to support (once away from your initial choice and again to either a 3rd choice or back to your initial choice... not that you can’t stick with your initial choice just that you need to be looking.) Thus the whole idea of "Who’s in first?" can’t happen until just before the election... unlike the general where probably 90+% of the population will vote based on the resulting candidate in their preferred party.
I was for Mr. Guiliani because he has been tested, even though some of his social positions were not my cup of tea. But I like Mr. Thompson’s positions on the border, fighting the Islamists and the fact they he has positions and papers on the major issues that confront our country. I also fear even more government intrusion in our lives which almost all of the Republican and Democratic candidates favor in their effort to help us. Help me by staying out of my way, I would say, and Mr. Thompson has basically endorsed that position.
I am slowly moving towards him and may vote for him in my state’s primary. I even sent him some money to keep his campaign going. And hey, I am addicted to Law and Order, so what else could I do.
Fred Thompson has an intuitiveness about him that I really like. Refusing to "raise his hand" on global warming was a winner. So too, was the line "I am about to break my silly hat rule" even if it was misreported.
I, too, liked his 16 minute video.
I also like that he states his positions in terms of his principles. One of the primary reasons I hope he is successful is that his success will fundamentally change the approach t campaigning. Other candidates will not be able to get away with simple sound bites.