Power Line notes that Fred Thompson is losing ground in polling in key primary states:
I think there are several reasons why Thompson’s campaign has not, so far, taken off as some expected. Thompson is a perfectly good conservative, but he lacks any particular stature as a one-and-a-half term Senator with no outstanding legislative accomplishments or policy innovations to his name. Given that he is also a quiet (some say lackluster) campaigner, it shouldn’t be surprising that so far, he hasn’t emerged as a powerhouse.
Also, Thompson’s appeal is based largely on the “none of the above” factor. He set out to appeal to the considerable segment of the Republican electorate that expressed dissatisfaction with the existing field. That was a good and potentially fertile niche, but it means that in a sense Thompson has been running against the field. To the extent that Romney, Giuliani and Huckabee have won over some previously skeptical voters, the need for a “none of the above” candidate may have diminished. And John McCain’s resurgence must have taken support away from Thompson, the candidate whose policy profile most nearly resembles McCain’s.
The appeal of Thompson’s campaign is that he’s a consistent conservative who is actually coming out with some strong policy prescriptions—especially in terms of Social Security reform. Granted, it may be a politically unwise endeavor to lead your campaign off with something so esoteric, but in a political climate devoted more to style than substance, there’s something refreshing about Thompson.
The fact that Thompson has been formally endorsed by the National Right to Life Foundation certainly helps. The fact that Mitt Romney had been lobbying for that endorsement also says something about the state of the race. Thompson is finding his niche as a consistent conservative in a race in which candidates either have great appeal to social conservatives and little to fiscal conservatives (Huckabee) or great appeal to fiscal conservatives and less to social conservatives (Giuliani) or candidates who have been accused of shifting their positions to match the prevailing political winds (Romney).
Thompson is not out—polling in these key states can be volatile, and many (including myself) figured John Kerry was dead in the water at this time four years ago. Still, Thompson is losing ground in Iowa and New Hampshire, and while he’s doing very well in South Carolina, it remains to be seen whether the winds won’t shift between the earlier states and that race.
What Thompson needs to do is start creating a grass-roots effort—and that means more time on the campaign trail. He’s got a firm grasp on the issues, in terms of fiscal issues, social issues, and national defense he’s the most consistent conservative in the race. The problem is that people don’t yet see him being able to win. To counter that perception, Thompson is going to have to get his boots on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire and start making a stronger impression with the electorate.
This race is totally up in the air. Romney and Giuliani have the inside track, but Thompson could pull ahead, especially with this key endorsement. McCain is doing better than one would expect (though not enough to win). Huckabee has been doing an excellent job of what Thompson should be doing—winning over social conservatives alienated by the top tier. There is no clear winner, and anything could change.