Links - Official Site: Friends of Fred Thompson, Inc.
The Fred Thompson Report (ABC Radio Networks)

In Brief - Actor; appeared in over 100 episodes of "Law and Order" starting in 2002.  Elected to the U.S. Senate in Nov. 8, 1994 special election; re-elected in 1996, did not seek re-election in 2002 and served through Jan. 2003.  Has appeared in numerous television episodes and motion pictures;  started his motion picture career in 1985 playing himself in "Marie."  Special counsel to Gov. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), 1980; special counsel the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 1980-81; special counsel to the  Senate Intelligence Committee, 1982.  Minority counsel on the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (“Watergate Committee”), 1973-74.  Assistant U.S. attorney, 1969-72.  Practiced law.  Undergraduate degree in philosophy and political science from Memphis State University, 1964; J.D. from Vanderbilt University, 1967.  Author of At That Point in Time: The Inside Story of the Senate Watergate Committee (Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., 1975). [Timeline].

Testing the Waters
Buzz about a possible run by actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) started in early 2007.  Former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) was mentioned as a leading instigator.  Dean Rice, who served on Thompson's 1994 and 1996 campaigns and worked in his Senate office, led a Draft Fred Thompson 2008 effort.  On March 11, in an appearance on ''Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,'' Wallace asked Thompson if he was considering running for president."  "I'm giving some thought to it," Thompson responded.  "Going to leave the door open."  [FNC transcript]

Thompson's answer prompted supporters to step up their efforts.  Tennessee Republican legislators urged Thompson to run in a March 13, 2007 letter.  "We know you as a staunch conservative, a man of his word with good commonsense values and a deep appreciation for those of all walks of life," the letter stated.  "It is for that reason, along with those listed above and many more, that we ask you to take the "red pickup truck" across America to do what you have always done so well - win elections."  Tennessee Congressmen Zach Wamp and John J. Duncan, Jr. signed on as co-chairmen of the "Draft Fred Thompson 2008" committee (March 19, 2007 press release).

On April 11, in an interview with Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto, Thompson announced that he was in remission from indolent lymphoma.  He stated that he had experienced no sickness or symptoms   "I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't satisfied in my own mind as to the nature of it and the fact that not only will I have an average life span, but in the meantime, I will not be affected in any way by it," Thompson said.  This announcement was taken by observers as a sign of the seriousness with which Thompson was approaching a possible campaign.

A week later, on April 18, Thompson met with more than 50 House Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club; news reports cited members' favorable responses.  In a May 4 article ("Fred Thompson's Inner Circle Builds A Larger Circle"), The Hotline's Marc Ambinder described a nascent campaign and the possibilty of a June launch.  On May 30 Thompson ended his five-year run as New York District Attorney Arthur Branch on "Law and Order."

Quite a few observers interpreted the interest in Thompson as a sign of discontent with the existing field of candidates.  Here it appeared might be the Reagan conservative Republicans were looking for.  Except for his support of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform legislation, Thompson looked to have a solidly conservative voting record while in the Senate.  Like Reagan, Thompson has had an acting career.  Indeed, he has even portrayed, and looks like, a president.

In early June 2007 Thompson formed a "testing the waters" committee.  As a testing the waters committee, Friends of Fred Thompson was not required to file with the Federal Election Commission, but on July 31, 2007 it did file a report with the Internal Revenue Service showing $3,463,355 raised and expenditures of $625,743.  The $3.5 million was less than anticipated, which drew some comment.  Meanwhile in early July, as Sen. John McCain's campaign appeared to be imploding, expectations were that Thompson would announce soon.  However, Thompson's testing of the waters extended into August, and one liberal blogger filed a complaint with the FEC charging numerous examples "that indicate that Mr. Thompson has gone far beyond the activities and speech allowable under the law."  Some "FredHeads" grew impatient and the considerable staff turnover at the committee raised eyebrows, but supporters argued that it made sense for him to "get his ducks lined up."  Finally on August 30 the committee announced that Thompson would announce his intention to run for President on September 6.

In the Race
On the evening of September 5, the eight declared Republican candidates debated in Durham, New Hampshire.  Thompson was not on the stage; instead, his committee ran a 30-second TV spot on FOX News during the debate broadcast.  Shortly afterwards, viewers could watch Thompson's taped appearance on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno where he declared, "I'm running for President of the United States."  A formal announcement, done in a webcast, went up shortly after midnight on the morning of September 6 at  "There are grave issues affecting the safety and security of the American people and our economic well being," Thompson stated.  "I'm going to do my level best in this campaign to address these problems."  Thompson kicked off his campaign with a five-day tour through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Thompson's late start could put him at a disadvantage, as the eight candidates already in the race had been building their campaigns for months and sometimes several years ( two candidates--former Gov. Jim Gilmore and former Gov. Tommy Thompson) had already left the race by the time Thompson entered.  The high turnover rate at Thompson's testing the waters committee raises red flags.  Thompson will also have to fend off a number of critics.  The DNC painted Thompson as "a corporate lobbyist for companies including General Electric and Westinghouse."  Richard Viguerie penned a white paper titled, "Conservatives, Beware of Fred Thompson."  In it he wrote, "He disappointed conservatives during his eight years in the Senate."  Viguerie asked, "Is there any reason to think this Washington insider and veteran trial lawyer would be any better as President?"

Thompson does have a base of support upon which to build, ranging from the FredHeads who were active in many states during the testing the waters phase to fellow Tennesseans former Sen. Howard Baker, who ran for president in 1980, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who ran for president in 1996 and 2000 (1999 actually), and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who looked closely into a 2008 bid.

Webcast Announcement, September 6, 2007.  [transcript]

Stephen Rodrick.  "The Actor."  New York.  July 30, 2007.
Steve Gill.  May 2007. THE FRED FACTOR...How Fred Thompson May Change The Face of The '08 Campaign.  Brentwood, TN: Music City News Publishing, Inc.

"In less than 2 months time Fred Thompson exploded onto the scene of the 2008 Presidential Race.  THE FRED FACTOR...How Fred Thompson May Change The Face of The '08 Campaign tracks this amazing political phenonomen in real time and lays out 'what happens next' in dramatic fashion.  Fred Thompson spends time in millions of American homes each week as a star of television's Law & Order.  THE FRED FACTOR...How Fred Thompson May Change The Face of The '08 Campaign reveals the man behind the role, a man who could very well be the next President of the United States."

On the Web
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examples of independent sites
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by Chester Goad and Reuben Watkins
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Copyright © 2007  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action