"John McCain has obvious age issues; his charisma is flagging, he has obviously pandered and flip-flopped on several key issues, and in the process he has alienated both conservatives and Democrats from his cause.
Mitt Romney is the most transparent pandered in the current political scene. This man had the gall to call John Kerry a flip-flopper. Couple that with his Mormonism and tons of stock footage of him loudly trumpeting views he now runs against and it's very easy to see how a competent Democratic campaign would put him away.
Rudy Giuliani is more of a wild card. He could well be the Republicans' strongest candidate; or he could be their worst. How will he play south of the Mason-Dixon line, especially against a candidate like Edwards or Obama? He could well make inroads into New York and, more plausibly, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But will they be offset by losses in areas less friendly to a socially liberal, thrice-married New Yorker? Will the hard-core pro-lifers ditch him for a third party candidacy that siphons off 5-6% of the vote? And how will Rudy's combustible personality play over the course of a year-long campaign?
Fred Thompson has none of these weaknesses. He's a much more traditional Republican candidate. But he's popular with the Republican base AND has proven electoral appeal with swing voters and independents. He's friendly with the Bush administration but isn't strongly associated with them, meaning their failures rub off less on him than on the others. Though he's a consummate insider, his time spent as an actor and his years away from the Senate may allow him to pass off as an "outsider." He also has a gravelly, statesman-like charisma to him that will play well with Southerners and a lot of older, more conservative swing voters.
A recent interview with Fox News, now up on YouTube, illustrates his strengths. We may laugh him off as a crusty, old fart. But if you think objectively, he's a much more logical and plausible GOP nominee than any currently running.
Laugh his candidacy off at your own peril. Unlike Bush or many of the right's other "stars" like George Allen, he's no lightweight. (And remember, plenty of us laughed at "W" early on, too; let's not forget how that turned out). Yes, Fred Thompson is a down-the-line Republican. Yes, he favors maintaining our commitment in Iraq. But he's very intelligent, a strong speaker and an excellent debater. He's generally well-respected by members of both parties in Washington and though he has been a loyal soldier for the Bush administration, he is not known to be ultra-partisan or a crony. In fact, he first rose to fame as one of the chief investigators on the Watergate counsel.
Moreover, he would have several strengths against any of our top three candidates. He comes off to most as more likable than Hillary Clinton. Unlike McCain, Giuliani or Romney, he'll certainly out-Southern John Edwards. And he'll score well on the gravitas score against either Edwards or Obama (less so for the latter).
A Thompson-led ticket could very easily solidify the warring GOP base and wrap up the entire South save a competitive-but-Republican-leaning Florida. Pair him with Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota as his running mate, and he would be in a very strong general election position.
My guess is that Obama would be the strongest opponent for Thompson. But Thompson could conceivably beat Obama at the debates and could also appear more authoritative than Obama, something that will earn him points among many suburban swing voters and many seniors. Though Obama would likely win big among younger voters, the "age gap" could tip the scales towards Thompson.
I'm not writing off our chances against Thompson; I still think that, given the political climate, we'd be slight favorites. But we'd certainly have to fight hard for it. And though I like our chances against any of the current Republican top three, I'm nowhere near as certain about those chances against Thompson.
Let's hope he doesn't run, or that if he does, all the top money and operatives have already been snatched up and he gains no more traction than, say, Mike Huckabee."
I rarely post photos from my photojournalistic photographic endeavors, but Fred just announced that he's running for US President. I was asked to shoot at this fundraiser dinner a while back, and I had an album printed from the shots.
Thanks for looking!