Monday, October 08, 2007

Fred needs to get serious

It has been reported that Fred Thompson is running a "strong second" in both Iowa and New Hampshire by the major press, as though this is evidence that Thompson is not only among the front-runners for the 2008 Republican nomination, but he is about to go over the top. The problem with all of this is that Fred's numbers are static-they aren't showing any immediate sign of improvement. That wouldn't be such a big deal if we had months on end before the first Primaries begin, but as it is the Iowa Caucus will take place just over three months from today.

So far, however, his speeches in Iowa have been underwhelming, and some are reported to say that in person he does not look healthy. He is running in second in Iowa and New Hampshire, but his 18% poll rating in Iowa (to Mitt Romney's 29%) suggests that he has a long way to go to approach the top. If this were an "ordinary" year, it wouldn't be unusual at all to finish second or third in Iowa only to come back and win the nomination, but the 2008 Primary schedule is so closely-packed that the winner in Iowa and New Hampshire is likely to be the Republican nominee.

Then there is the issue of Fred's focus on the campaign trail. He has recently shown himself unschooled in key issues that normally confront candidates these days, something that would not have been the case in 1994. On top of all this, evangelical leaders are showing signs of hesitancy toward the Thompson camp, and in conservative circles you will have terrible trouble getting elected without evangelical support.

Am I saying this because I am opposed to Fred Thompson? No-the contrary is true-I still believe that the Thompson campaign has the best chance of beating the Democrats in the fall. However, if Thompson is to win the nomination he really must get his act together. Because of the early Primary calendar, we don't have months to go at this point before voting begins-we can begin counting down the days in weeks. Every day that Fred Thompson remains in second place is a lost day.

The big test will be tomorrow's Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan. Thompson will need to score a knockout-the future of his candidacy may be riding on his performance.



At Monday, October 08, 2007 6:46:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


I thought I might respond before you get a more pointedly negative response from other Thompson supporters.

I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed in this. It seems like you're buying into the anti-Thompson smear machine.

To address your points:

If Thompson's speeches are "underwhelming", that's a function of who he is. He's not the type of candidate who's going to be realy "rah rah"...who's going to grab you in one single soundbite. Fred's approach is more the "sitting on the front porch with cigars, having a relaxing conversation" type. It may seem "underwhelming", but as the Tennessean article that you linked to states, Thompson simply grows on you after a while. He's more effective over time.

Second, I think people have to realize that no candidate is going to be completely schooled on all issues, especially local ones. Drilling in the Everglades...lethal injection in Tennessee...these are not national issues. If Fred shows that he doesn't know national issues, then we've got a problem. Otherwise, this isn't something that's going to impact me, the voter.

Finally, regarding the evangelicals....

Honestly, I would be very happy with Fred if he distances himself from this group. When the leader of the pack starts crowing about how Mr. Thompson isn't a "real Christian", it just leaves a grand distaste in my mouth -- especially because, as a Catholic, I've had many evangelical types hurl the same idiotic tripe at me.

One of Fred's keys is that he is running as a federalist. On key issues such as abortion and gay marriage, he's saying that things ought to be left to the states -- as they should be. Of course, evangelicals are apoplectic about this, because many of them want a religious, theocratic state. They don't care that the government is large and out of control -- as long as it does what THEY want, that's fine with them.

As long as Fred remains a social and fiscal conservative, which he is, he'll be fine. He doesn't have to pander to the evangelicals or anyone else, and quite frankly, I wouldn't vote for him if he did.

The last thing we need is a leader who is willing to bastardize his principles and pander to specific groups in the hopes of getting votes that he ought to have anyway. Remember what I've said before, David. We need a GOOD candidate, not just an ELECTABLE one.


At Monday, October 08, 2007 7:10:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

The problems are twofold here:

Since Fred is a former Senator from Tennessee and was essentially recruited to run by the Republican Establishment here (without which he would not be running at all-this entire campaign was birthed here-the original plan was for Fred to run for Governor in 2010, but it was his mentor Howard Baker who pushed him to run for President), not knowing about a critical issue in his own home State simply does not look good. On top of that, 90% of his money is coming from Tennessee, so Tennessee ties and support are vital here-he loses that, and he is finished. If you don't have evangelical support, you won't survive in Tennessee (headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention) as a Republican in 2007 Statewide very long.

I disagree with you about evangelicals-the pro-life movement simply can't maintain the strong foothold in the GOP we have without evangelical help and support-and I know that from having spent years inside of the movement. Without a Catholic-evangelical political alliance, the pro-life movement is rendered ineffective politically.

All of this is not to say in the least that Fred can't turn this around-he certainly can. He did in 1994. But he had a year to do it then. In running for President he has three months to do it (the time before Iowa and New Hampshire) in 2007/2008. He needs to really get energized. Running second at this point isn't good enough to secure the nomination-not in a year when the Primary schedule is so packed.

No one in this State believes Fred is unelectable, by the way-we all believe to a man that he is the one mosyt likely to beat the Democrats in 2008, and that is why we all support him-he is electable AND good. Whether his heart is in this, or whether he perhaps feels that he was cajoled into running (which a lot of us did cajole him-especially in Tennessee) is quite another matter, however.

At Monday, October 08, 2007 7:48:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


As I stated before, no candidate is going to know every issue. And when you're in a campaign where every second is vital -- and you're trying to help raise two young children to boot -- being up-to-date and familiar with very recent issues can be exceedingly difficult. And it's not like he's in Tennessee every day, reading the local papers, either. Further, not knowing an issue now does not equal never knowing an issue. There's a difference.

In other words, people need to cut Fred a break on that issue.

As for the evangelical thing, I never said that it wouldn't be proper to work with the evangelical community or have some level of alliance with them. I simply said that Fred shouldn't pander to them, be beholden to them, or change his platform to fit with theirs, ESPECIALLY if they are going to use their support as a big thumping stick to get him to pander.

The evangelical community, at least the part led by James Dobson, wants Fred to change his platform -- especially vis a vis abortion and gay marriage. Keeping those issues to the states is not acceptable to the Dobson-ites. They want federal legislation. Fred simply cannot support that.

As with other recent issues upon which we've disagreed, I would hope that you realize that it is possible to be friendly towards and work with other people and groups without pandering or cutting yourself off at the knees.

Fred can work with them all he wants...but getting extra votes by changing who he is and what he stands for, just isn't worth it. And if that's what he does, I can GUARANTEE you that I will not vote for him.

You know me, know how principled and pragmatic I am and how important I view this election. I take all of this incredibly seriously, and I wouldn't be saying these things if they weren't absolutely true.


At Monday, October 08, 2007 10:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt' thoughts about Thompson's purported lack of awareness of current issues. These types of reports about "Fred's lack of knowledge of the issues" constitute disingenuous reporting, plain and simple.

You can play this game of gotcha with any candidate, should any reporter or any news source so choose. It goes without saying that Fred is not some sort of omniscient newsgathering source that learns the details of everything that occurs which may be of interest to him- no doubt, there is enough on his plate these days. These kinds of stories are only meant to reinforce the meme that Fred is either lazy or a rube, plain and simple.

I live here in south Florida, and I consider myself fairly well informed, to boot- and yet I had no idea that there were untapped oil reserves in the Everglades. If aby given reporter decides that he's going to play 20 questions with a candidate with the goal that he will eventually will find an issue that the candidate isn't informed about, it won't be too long before the he finds that issue that a candidate doesn't know much about- and presto, we have a story about Fred's lack of knowledge on the issues!

As a fellow Catholic and staunch supporter of Thompson, we, as well as Evangelicals, need to remember that we are selecting a President, not a Pastor or other Religious official. Fred's philosophy is in sync with the concerns of social conservatives, but as Dr. Dobson has found out, he isn't going to kowtow to anyone- and that's a good thing, because a President has to be his own man.

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 12:26:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Fred's big issue in my mind is energy-he just doesn't seem energized, and we have 90 days to go (or thereabouts). He has evangelical and Catholic support here (on the evangelical side Richard Land is a good example of that) but a lot of us are asking "where's the fire..."

It is a legitmate question, because we know what Fred is capable of, and I am not seeing that Fred just yet.

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 1:47:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


With all due respect, do you have anything nice to say about Fred? While you say that you are a Fred supporter, it's difficult for me to remember any post about him that was positive, in recent memory. The only exception to that I can really think of is the few days surrounding the announcement of his candidacy. Otherwise, when you've posted about him, it seems to always be negative.

That's not to say that I believe all posts about Fred should be "rah-rah" or that people should be wearing rose-colored glasses for him...but if one is going to be a Fred supporter, it would really help to provide some positive support now and then.

Regarding his energy levels, I would hope that his relative age and overall health profile would speak for itself. It only makes sense that he's not going to be as energetic as other candidates -- especially when you consider that he is also helping raise two very young children. As a father, I can assure you that child-rearing can be a VERY tiring task.

It's really incredible to me that so many people -- even Fred supporters -- have to focus on this total nonsense rather than place focus on important issues.

Fred knows what he needs to do -- he doesn't need us to tell him. This sort of conversation simply detracts from Fred and gives even greater power to his critics. In other words, stuff like this doesn't help Fred -- it hurts him and his campaign.

By the way,'s a link to what Renee had to say regarding this issue...


At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 1:48:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 4:57:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

What I have chosen to do is to be bluntly honest about the state of the campaign so far. If I were you, I would not even mention Fred's age, health, or the fact that he now has a young child-those are things his detractors have all brought up, but note that I have not mentioned them-in my mind these things should have no impact on Fred's ability to go all-out for the White House.

If you think they do, then you are actually making the argument against Fred, not me.

Instead, I know what Fred is capable of, and so far we are not seeing that-I think that is worthy of pointing out. All I am saying is "hey, we've got no time to waste, let's get energized, let's get moving."

We've been talking about this candidacy for months...enough of talk-its time for serious action on everyone's part.

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 8:39:00 AM, Anonymous A. Renee Daley said...


Then I suggest you heed your own advice. Why don't you start helping Fred by getting his message out? If you believe in him so much, then start posting more about his candidacy, or his stance on certain issues -- even if you may disagree with it.

There's enough manure out there from the pundits and pseudo-pundits to fertilize a farm field - his supporters and those claiming to support Thompson simply do not need to add to it. Thompson supporters know what his weaknesses are (as they are pointed out constantly by political insiders, ultra-conservatives and liberals), we should be the ones to focus on his strengths.

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 10:14:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

I've actually been posting the positive about Fred since March.

The reason for the seeming disappointment around here among some of us is that we need Fred to have that fire in his belly-Tennessee Republicans are really counting on Fred. Our entire 2008 State election strategy here is dependent on Fred's candidacy because we believed that he would be as enthusiastic about this as we are.

If Fred doesn't have the fire in the belly, it could cost the GOP a shot at total control of the State Legislature for the first time in 140 years.

So pardon us a bit of we might like him to step it up and "set the woods on fire," because we have been waiting for a hard fight.

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 2:02:00 PM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


Quite frankly, that's not Fred Thompson's problem. And I would say that if Fred is running as a way to help out friends in Tennessee, I won't vote for him. The sheer idea is ridiculously wrong. I really don't care how important Tennessee politics are to people in Tennessee...they don't matter to anyone else in the United States. And Fred Thompson is running for President of the United States, not President of Tennessee. His concerns MUST be national.

And I would also say that any politician who needs to ride on the coattails of a Presidential candidate to get into state office probably isn't fit for that office anyway. Having a state majority is great -- especially if you've never had one before -- but the people consisting the majority have to be good people, not just people of the party.

Besides...Fred doesn't even live full time in Tennessee anymore. Much of the time, he lives in McLean, Virginia.

As I've told you before, it's just this type of thing that leaves an utter distaste in my mouth for the current state of politics. If Fred Thompson isn't running for the right reasons -- and helping out Tennessee folks isn't one of those -- then he shouldn't be running. And if people are supporting his bid out only for their own benefit, then they shouldn't be supporting him at all. I would rather they find someone else, and I'm sure Fred would, too.

Fred's got plenty of fire in his belly, he's plenty energetic enough, and those of us who really support him and his efforts see no issue here.

The only problem is the unrealistic expectations of those with their own agendas. And like I said at the start, that's not Fred Thompson's problem.


At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 9:45:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Fred was (and is) well aware that Tennessee Republicans are counting on him. His entire campaign for President was birthed here, and the assistance that his presence in the race could lend to the State Republican Party in our quest for a majority was not only part of the equation when considering whether he should run, it was openly discussed as part of the larger strategy. The House and Senate Republican Caucuses in Tennessee were among the first groups to publicly endorse Fred and send him a letter urging him to run. The "Tennessee factor" is something that the national pundits have been aware of for some time-and obviously it matters to Fred, since his campaign is stacked with old Tennessee people from top to bottom.

The national Chairman is the man who urged him privately to run to begin with-Howard Baker.

Rest assured that if all of this is news to you, you are one of the few who did not know.

Tennessee (and the Tennessee GOP) has a lot riding on this campaign-so much so that our entire State Party apparatus has reorganized because of Fred's campaign, since he asked our (now former) State Chairman Bob Davis to come work for the campaign full-time.

We (collectively) were the ones who started all of this-we have collectively invested energy and hopes into Fred's campaign, and he is well aware that we are counting on him big-time, and was aware of that before he ever entered the race.

There was some good news from the debate, though (I thought it was great) and I will be posting on that tomorrow.


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