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Thompson's Test

Rumors of Republican Fred Thompson joining the race for President have been circulating for the past couple of weeks, and today The Hill reports a bit more detail. It seems Howard Baker has been making phone calls to Republican power brokers gaging support for a potential Thompson bid.

I've thought for some time that with Jeb Bush forced to the sidelines for obvious reasons, Fred Thompson is the only Republican in the country with the stature, name recognition, the ability to raise money, and the conservative bona fides who could step in and fill the current void that exists in the field. The questions is whether that void is big enough to make Thompson a top-tier contender and give him a legitimate shot at winning the nomination.

The Special Report roundtable tackled the issue of a Thompson run last Friday, coming to a unanimous conclusiuon:

ANGLE: All right, we don't have much time left. There was some talk today that Fred Thompson might get into the race. Fred Thompson, who's now on Law and Order, but a senator and a jovial fellow who's known around town is also involved in the Scooter Libby defense fund. What are the prospects of that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, we've had an actor in a White House, but he also was a two-term governor of the largest state in the union and quite an accomplished political thinker. In getting a guy right out of a television show -- it's not going to happen, especially in wartime.

KONDRACKE: I completely agree with that. And Fred Thompson, you know, was the chairman of the government operations committee in the Senate and basically did nothing while he was there. I mean, he doesn't have much of a record.

BARNES: There's a space for more candidates, I suppose, always, but I agree with Charles, it's -- I mean Ronald Reagan, you know, was governor, he didn't just jump from Death Valley Days right to a presidential campaign.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'd say he's finished.

(LAUGHTER)

Personally, I'm not so sure. Thompson may have a shot for two reasons. First, experience is generally overrated. Two of the top-tier candidates on the Democratic side (Obama & Edwards) currently have eight years in the Senate between them - the same as Thompson. Second, persona matters a tremendous amount in modern politics and there are very few people who project more of an aura of strength and seriousness than Fred Thompson. It's hard to envision him standing on a stage debating Obama, Clinton, or Edwards and coming away looking like a lightweight.

I think the biggest challenge for Thompson is meeting the desire requirement. Is this something he really wants, and is really ready to put forth the effort it will take to keep up the grueling schedule of a presidential bid over the next twenty months? However popular Thompson may be with the party faithful, his entry into the race would be light years away from a coronation. He'd have to fight hard for it, especially against his good pal John McCain.

I suspect that's the main reason why Thompson won't run, even though I'd like to see him in the race. I'd also like to see Al Gore jump in on the Democratic side, though I doubt he will. At this point, it's already a complete circus, so the more the merrier.