No, Martin Sheen for president; Fred Thompson for his chief-of-staff.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist spinning off of the old Ronald Reagan joke. But seriously folks, what about Thompson’s presidential prospects?
It’s pretty obvious why he’s getting consideration — the Republican party is a conservative outfit but neither of its two leading presidential contenders is solidly conservative. That leaves a gap — the space that George Allen or perhaps Bill Frist was expected to fill. Their absence gave Mitt Romney the opportunity to occupy the the conservative niche, and for me he does. However, many conservatives have their doubts on this score, or they doubt his electability. And even I have to admit that right now Thompson appears more electable than Romney.
In a sense, then, Thompson looks like the perfect blend of the Allen/Frist/Romney/Gingrich and McCain/Giuliani “factions.” He seems to combine the conservatism of the former cluster with at least some of the popularity and stature of the latter pairing. This is not to suggest that Thompson is a national hero like McCain and Giuliani. But in addition to a long and distinguished record of public service, he has the good fortune to play a distinguished public servant on television. Millions of Americans see Thompson exercise sound judgment every week as the district attorney on “Law and Order.” I’m reliably informed that the show’s creator, Dick Wolf, developed the persona of this fictional D.A. specifically for Thompson, and that the actor/politician protects his image by pushing back when he thinks his lines don’t portray him in the proper light. But the point isn’t whether we’re seeing the real Fred Thompson on the show; the point is that, if Thompson runs, millions of America will see the character when they see the candidate, and to that extent will like what they see.
But what about the real Fred Thompson? As Robert Novak reported last week, the rap againt Thomspon is that “he was not a hard worker during his eight years in the Senate.” Yet I’m told by a source who was there that Thompson was a reasonably diligent member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In any case, this rap is unlikely to hurt Thompson with voters outside the beltway.
What will matter is whether Thompson is prepared to campaign diligently for the nomination. If so, he likely will represent a force to be reckoned with.
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