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Fred Thompson’s jolt to the GOP

The WaPo reports on a speech by Fred Thompson in Richmond at a Republican Party Dinner yesterday. C-SPAN is going to play the speech tonight a couple of times. It may be worth watching both to hear the speech and to see how the audiance reacted to it. If we are bemused by why Thompson is making headway, maybe we should remind ourselves of the connection between politics and rhetoric, or, why poetry is always better than prose (especially with a Southern buoyancy to it). A sample or two:

"Folks, we’re a bit down politically right now, but I think we’re on the comeback trail, and it’s going to start right here..."

"We are a nation of compassion, a nation of immigrants. But this is our home . . . and we get to decide who comes into our home." This got him a standing ovation.

The WaPo also reports:

"Thompson reminded guests that he now lives in McLean, but he offered himself as a Beltway outsider, saying there was a ’disconnect’ between Washington and the rest of the country ’like I’ve never seen before.’ He said the GOP had lost its congressional majorities because ’some of us came to drain the swamp and made partnership with the alligators.’"

Discussions - 11 Comments

"Poetry can communicate before being understood."

Politics is mostly theater. Reagan understood that; Clinton understood that; George W. Bush apparently does not. Thompson understands it perhaps better than any other candidate in the race.

Fred's speech clearly sparked some real enthusiasm, and I hope he keeps it up. But that remark about the swamp and the alligators falls way short of poetry or even country music.

Schramm is of course right on. The second Peter may be right about the alligator line, but the reference to "home" was a masterstroke.

Dear Sirs,

I watched the speech three times. Mr. Thompson was trying variations on old lines and had a few new ones too. The act gets better each time. I remember Ronald Reagan on G.E. theatre. He worked on his act for years.

Mr. Thompson is running a very, very smart campaign. Best I have seen, and I've been watching since 1952. He's teasing the media, polishing his act in minor venues, and letting the front runners take all the flak. When he enters he will know the battlefield and the caliber of the shots being fired.

Douglas Brinkley, Ronald Reagan's biographer, described him as a blend of Eisenhower and Goldwater. Time will tell if Mr. Thompson can pull off being all three. I can't wait to see.


For the record, AMERICA IS NOT A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS, so why do conservative PC panderers keep saying that? Oh, I just answered my own question. We are a nation of settlers which has absorbed a lot of immigrants, but never at the rate that we have since 1965.

Now, back to Thompson. I have said all along that if he gets in he is immediately top tier. I don't know which of the top tier he doesn't take votes from. He is just credible enough on social issues to pass muster with the evangelicals. (That is a sad indictment of how easily evangelicals can be had.) I think he wins the nomination. The only thing standing in his way might be his health and Iowa and NH. But he will dominate in the South if he can get past the first two States.

Also, Thompson has a lifetime immigration voting record of C+, but this current monstrosity is so bad, he can be against it and come out smelling like a rose. All the pieces are falling together for him.

Too bad conservative aren't serious enough about what they say they believe to support Paul.

I find it almost impossible to resist a good talker like Thompson . . . particularly after the thirst this long dry spell has brought upon us. But a simple fact is nagging at me: how does a conservative beat Rudy if there are two them and only one of him? Can the race really come down to a contest between Romney and Thompson? Won't this just split the conservatives and seal the deal for Rudy in the end? I'm actually asking, not positing a prediction.


I think Romney is done. What case can be made for him now, other than he has good hair? I think Amnesty McCain was already done.

Rudy doesn't wear well. If it comes down to Thompson v. Rudy, Thompson will crush him.

Some long meandering thoughts for Dan Phillips: I think you are right about McCain but I don't think I'm stepping out on a limb to agree with you there. You may be right about Thompson v. Rudy--though I would need an argument rather than an assertion before I could be sure. But I think you are wrong about Romney. I don't think he is done. I see him doing well in Iowa and NH. I see him raising lots of money and with the support of a significant segment of the conservative/GOP multitudes. This can be a fickle bunch . . . and I know they want badly to win . . . but I don't think it's accurate or fair to say they're supporting him because of his hair. He's an accomplished fellow who seems decent enough and more or less right on the issues. Flip-flopping is a rather hollow charge in his case--as it must be in the case of anyone who tries to govern as a conservative in Massachusetts. What appears to be flip-flopping may, on closer inspection, turn out to be rope-a-doping. Also, I rather like the direction in which he is accused of flip-flopping. I'd like to see more of such flip-flopping and so I don't wish to condemn it.

At this point I'm slightly more excited by Fred Thompson just because--all other things being essentially equal--I prefer a president who can talk and one who has a commanding presence. Substantively, I don't see a vast difference between Romney and Thompson (I haven't really studied it deeply--but on the big things they're virtually the same) so I'm judging now from the standpoint of pure appeal. I like both better than Rudy--though I am still drawn to him when he's tough-talking. I see him and think: "I wouldn't mind that guy running our war." And I think he could beat Hillary if the conservatives didn't give him too much of a hard time. But that's an "if" that's not going to happen, in my view. I'm not even sure that it should--though if Hillary does win my hindsight will be 20/20. So probably, if he gets the nomination, the conservatives are going to cap his knees and cripple him for the fight with her.

That leaves us with Thompson and Romney. I don't think either will get out of the race before it counts. I think it will come down to those two and Rudy. I still think that is to Rudy's advantage but, assuming I'm wrong, which of them has the better chance? Hugh Hewitt thinks Romney does because Thompson is a southerner and people--wanting change--will see him as another George Bush. (It probably does not help Thompson--for this criticism--that many of the Bush supporters, including a close relative of Bush--are raising funds for him.) I understand that line of thinking and there may be something to it . . . but I think there is a vast difference between the appeal of Bush and the appeal of Thompson. Thompson's appeal reminds me a lot, actually, of Zell Miller's. And Bush is not really a proper southerner, is he? I mean, kinda . . . but ya'll might say he's a bit of a carpetbagger--or his Daddy was, mightn't you? And Bush went to Yale; Thompson to Memphis State. They are two very different eggs. I found a story about him in which people who knew him as a young person said he "majored in people." And that he was "smart," could've made straight A's but was lazy and liked, rather, to be the class clown. He is Tom Sawyer.

Perhaps what you meant to say is that there is nothing about Romney that immediately appeals beyond his hair. If that's what you meant, I think I tend to agree. But that's a matter of taste, I suppose. I find him a bit too polished and too perfect and very East Coast in appearance and mannerisms. I wouldn't quite say that he seems "slick" but some might. This all goes back to that discussion we had some months ago about finding some petty little vice that humanizes the candidate. I don't want to be crude . . . but he doesn't seem to have any love handles. Maybe he shouldn't have to have them . . . a case can be made for that . . . but people don't vote for someone because someone thinks they "should."


Don't make too much of the hair comment. I was just being smart.

Romney is play acting a moderate conservative. (In reality, I think he was play acting a Mass. liberal, and the moderate conservative is probably more authentic. But he has to live with what he play acted first.) Thompson is a moderate conservative. So I think when push comes to shove, people will choose the believable moderate conservative.

But you are right that Iowa and NH could be a road block for Thompson, as I conceded in another thread. But if the race makes it to the South and those two are still fairly even, then Thompson beats him.

I think the Mormonism matters esp. in the South, and since I am not a pluralist liberal I am not sure why it is not supposed to matter.

Dan Phillips, you still haven't answered my initial question is how do either Romney or Thompson beat Rudy when there are two of them (whether you actually believe Romney is conservative is irrelevant from the point of view of those voters who do believe it) and only one of Rudy? Here's the basic point: There is a certain number of conservative voters. There are two professed conservative candidates with a real chance of winning (not to mention all the "also-rans"). Their votes will be split between Romney, Thompson and, don't forget McCain--who will also skim off some conservative votes. The second tier will take some as well. That leaves Rudy with all the rest. Tell me how he doesn't win the nomination?

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