When Fred Thompson announced on Jay Leno’s “Tonight” show on June 12, 2007, that he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, ending months of speculation, his prospects looked rosy. A March 29th Gallup-USA Today survey showed Thompson running third, just behind John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, among Republicans in the race. Thompson’s poll numbers in September were in the high 20s and low 30s. By the end of the year, his poll numbers had sunk to single digits.Fred possessed a commanding stage presence, that familiar air of gravitas, and built-in national recognition from his movie and television roles. He also had been Minority Counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, better known as the Watergate Committee, in 1973-74. Thompson was a lawyer and a former Senator from Tennessee, elected on November 8, 1994, to fill the unexpired portion of the term left vacant by Al Gore’s resignation. He was sworn in for his first term on 12/2/94.
Thompson was re-elected the Republican Senator from Tennessee in 1996. Responding to charges of “laziness” leveled against him throughout his career Thompson retorted in an article entitled “The Fred Express” in NewsMax magazine (September 2007 interview with John Fund, columnist for the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com and The American Spectator): “That’s what they said about me before I ran for Senate the first time, and that’s what they said about me two years later, when I ran for re-election. I won the first time by 21 points, and by 25 points the second time. That was in a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. If you can do that while being lazy, I recommend it to everyone.”
What, exactly, happened, then, to the political Second Coming of Fred Thompson? Why didn’t his run for the roses, his political comeback, have a fairy tale ending?
There are several theories that help explain why, in Columbia, South Carolina on election night, Fred Thompson stood before his supporters for the final time, saying, “We will always be bound by a close bond because we have traveled a very special road, bound together for a very special purpose. We’ll always stand strong together, we’ll always stand strong together, and I can’t thank you enough for that.”
And, as the cartoon finale goes, “Th-th-th-that’s, all, Folks.”
Shortly thereafter, Thompson announced he was dropping his bid for the Presidency and, soon after that, he endorsed his old Senate colleague John McCain for the Republican nomination for the Presidency.
What went wrong?
(To be Continued)