Note to Fred: Make up your mindThe story of the increased interest in Fred Thompson's personal papers appeared in both the Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Tennessean this morning. The report highlighted seemingly contradictory positions allegedly taken by Thompson during his Senate campaigns and years in the Senate. I fully expect such digging, as well as to hear all kinds of allegations being thrown around against Fred Thompson whether they are real, half-true, or imagined. A lot of this is, in raw political terms, being cooked in a teflon skillet: It sounds political to the untrained ear and therefore it will not stick.
It is of far greater concern that Fred Thompson continues, with nearly every speech he makes and every appearance in which we find him, to delay his official entry into the Presidential race. He delayed the formation of his exploratory committee until the last possible moment, and I suspect finally formed it when he was told by his inner circle "you must do this now, or there will be no getting in later." In years' past, a candidate could well afford to wait this long before announcing, and it was not uncommon for those who announced in September or October to become the front-runner in both parties. The early start to the Presidential campaign has damaged the equilibrium so much, however, that continued delay in announcing will put even the best and most obvious political candidates behind in the game.
Simply put, Fred Thompson could be personally more popular than George Washington, but if he continues to delay his official entry into this race the vast money pool that he undoubtedly has recourse to (and does not yet have to report) at the present time will begin to dry up as people turn their attention to candidates who have clearly made up their mind. I think that is unfortunate, and I think it is a tragic result of the current system of things because no decent candidate of either party should be forced to make such a decision two years before the business goes down. That is the present system of things, however, and it is the reality under which the grassroots also must labor.
Yes, Fred Thompson has essentially been drafted into this campaign, and I do not believe that he had an original intention of entering. When the right people called, Fred took the bait and has thus chosen to open himself up to the publicity and attention that a candidate for President of the United States would receive. Conservatives want Thompson because many believe that while there are a few good candidates running, none of those have a real chance to win at this point-but Fred Thompson does. The longer Thompson delays a de jure entry, the more likely his personal popularity will become a non-factor. He looks like a serious candidate now because the Draft Fred movement has made it so, but the longer Thompson goes without making it official the less serious he will appear to the people with dollars to give.
If Fred Thompson has it in his mind that he can afford to wait much longer, I will submit that many people in the grassroots feel as I do. They do not want to be kept dangling in the wind-either Thompson gets into the 2008 Presidential campaign, or he withdraws from it in enough time to give the people a chance to find another ship to sail on (even one that they know will sink). I am not suggesting that a gun be held to Fred Thompson's head and he be told "make a decision now." I am stating the reality: The system put that gun to the head of every candidate in both parties by roughly April of this year. It is by the grace of God and sheer charisma and popularity that Fred Thompson is not already a footnote in the history of this coming election.
Getting into this election late is like taking a late ante in a poker game: You may win a few hands, but you aren't likely to win the game because you started well behind. Fred Thompson will get to a point where his entry may win a few hands, but he will lose the game merely because he did not enter when the first hands of the game were dealt.
The hour is now. Fred Thompson must get in the game, or stay out and go home.
Labels: Presidential Election