Patrick Ruffini takes a look at Fred Thompson’s Iowa campaign schedule. The media narrative of Thompson being “lazy” on the stump has always been that—a media narrative. And as any educated consumer of media should know, what the media thinks and the truth might not dine at the same table.
Is this last-minute push enough to make a difference? It did in Thompson’s Senate race, where he came back from behind in a similar last-minute push. In many ways, the dynamics of the campaign benefit two people: McCain and Thompson. Huckabee peaked too early, and now he’s starting to show the thin-skinned petulance that many noted during his tenure as governor of Arkansas. Romney is doing well, but he’s expected to do well, and is now in a difficult race with Huckabee, which leaves the middle wide open.
I don’t think Thompson could win Iowa, but a third-place finish keeps him in the race. A strong third-place finish gives him crucial momentum into the later races. If McCain beats Romney in New Hampshire and does well in Michigan, the race could turn into a Thompson/McCain race, which would be very interesting. As much as I respect McCain, conservatives are more likely to look for someone with a stronger conservative record. If I had to guess, I’d say that the latest Strategic Vision poll has the best view of the race. They show Huckabee breaking 30%, Romney close behind at 25% and Fred Thompson at a respectable 16%. If Thompson breaks 20%, he will vastly outperform expectations. If he gets around 15% in Iowa, he’s still in the race. Less than 10%, and it’s likely that his campaign is over. I would look for Thompson to come in right around the 15% mark and a solid third place.
Of course, everything is still in flux. The race could change dramatically in the holiday season, especially if Huckabee stumbles. This race has practically infinite possibilities—other than the bottom tier (which is dwindling now that Tancredo is out), any of the putative front-runners have a chance. Could Thompson come from behind? Could McCain? Could Rudy reinvigorate his campaign? Is Romney’s momentum enough? Could Huckabee solidify his base beyond evangelicals? We’ll know in the next few weeks, but right now as the country rightly pauses for the celebration of Christmas, there are far more unanswered questions than solid predictions.