Fred Drops Out

Sen. Thompson has issued the following statement:

Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.

Where To Now?

Stephen Bainbridge, another Fred supporter, argues the case for sitting the rest of this one out. He’s right: all the other candidates have flaws, which is why those of us who smartly supported Fred weren’t on their sides. Romney is too plastic to win. Rudy is dead in the water and hasn’t done enough to get social conservatives on his side. Mike Huckabee is dumber than a box of rocks and has gone out of his way to offend fiscal conservatives. That leaves John McCain, who is at best an inconsistent conservative and has offended both wings of the Republican coalition from time to time.

Fred should stay in the race as long as he can. We need a consistent conservative in their to keep the others in line and remind the party what we’re really fighting for. His speech in South Carolina, though clearly one presaging his exit, reminded me of why I supported Fred in the first place. He finally found his campaign style—several months too late to win, but that’s politics. Now, the race is about principle rather than winning.

At the end of the day, we have an obligation based on our deepest principles to ensure that someone like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama does not become President of the United States. We are in a long war against an implacable enemy. The next President will likely shape the Supreme Court by appointing new Justices. We need a Supreme Court that does not rule based on their own social inclinations justified only by the flimsiest constitutional rationales. We need an economy that can compete in the 21st Century, not one that is mired in protectionism, regulation and excessive taxation. We need a government that reflects the moral will of the people, not one that strives to undermine the family—the very mortar that holds this society together.

Sitting out just isn’t an option, and someone like John McCain who is right 82.3% of the time (according to the American Conservative Union) is a better choice than someone who is actively hostile to all our shared principles.

Thompson/Watts 2008?

Here’s an interesting bit of scuttlebutt circulating around the campaign trail courtesy of Jim Geraghty. There’s talk of a possible ticket of Fred Thompson and former Oklahoma Representative J.C. Watts should Thompson get the nomination. That would be one hell of a ticket: Watts is a charismatic figure who could reach out to new voters. Then again, it’s far too premature to start speculating about the veepstakes when the top of the ticket isn’t close to being decided.

Still, I’d crawl through broken glass to vote for a Thompson/Watts ticket in 2008, and it would be an opportunity for the GOP to broaden their appeal in a way that they’ve not done in a long time.

It’s On

Fred Thompson just ripped into Mike Huckabee’s record, and got vigorous applause for it. Did someone wonder where Fred’s fire in the belly is? Because I think he just found it.

Someone has to say it. Mike Huckabee is not a conservative in terms of his view of government. He would be another George W. Bush, but without the resolution on the war. He’s a nice guy to have a beer with, and he’d be a nice pastor. But he’s not POTUS material, and Thompson just forcefully made the case why.

Now Thompson needs to make the case why he’s the best conservative in the race, and if he does that as forcefully as he went after Huckabee he’ll walk away with this debate.

I wasn’t planning on liveblogging tonight, but…

8:39PM: Both Huckabee and Thompson had good lines on Iran. Huck’s line about the “gates of hell” and Thompson’s ad-lib about the Iranians meeting those virgins they’re always pining for was pure red meat for national security conservatives. The difference is that Thompson had more policy detail—which shows that he’s done his homework, but does tend to bog him down a bit.

8:40PM: McCain looks really tired…

8:41PM: Ron Paul brings up the Gulf of Tonkin. Again, he’s the punching bag tonight. Does he not remember the USS Cole?

Thompson’s Iran line: “I think one more step and they would have been meeting those virgins they’ve been looking so forward to seeing.” Classic.

8:43PM: Ron Paul is a whiny little crapweasel. John McCain looks like he’s about ready top jump out of his podium and rip him a new one.

Romney is polished as ever, but it hasn’t helped him yet. Romney is the perfect executive, which just isn’t the same as the perfect Presidential candidate.

8:46PM: McCain has a good line about Iraq, but he still looks so tired. I’d be inclined to support McCain, mainly because he’s been on top of this war, but he’s not inspiring tonight. His stump speech lines are getting old, especially on spending—and I think McCain is 100% dead-on right on the need to control spending.

8:48PM: Giuliani’s answer on Iraq was fine, but he’s also not hitting it tonight. The only two people who are “on” tonight are Fred and Huck, which may mean a lot for the shape of the crucial South Carolina race.

8:51PM: McCain is smacking down Paul, who sounds more and more paranoid and conspiratorial. We supported Osama bin Laden? Bullshit. Why did they bother bringing that raving nutbag into the debate? Unless, of course, it’s to give the serious candidates a convenient punching bag.

8:53PM: Fred just slammed The New York Times on Iraq. Where the hell have you been, Senator? Had you done this well earlier, you’d be leading by 10% right now.

“You can tell the news coming out of Iraq is good, because you read so little about it in the New York Times.” Nice!

What’s nice about Fred tonight is that he has a good applause line followed by some real substantive answers. He’s got energy tonight, and it shows.

Romney mentioned “three dimensional chess.” Is he going for the Trekkie vote? Then again, he had a very sharp answer on Pakistan, mentioning the head of the Pakistani Army.

8:58PM: Now “Mr. Nice Guy” Huckabee is kicking Ron Paul in the ass. He is the punching bag tonight. Small government or not, I’d vote for a dead cow before I’d vote for a nutbag like Ron Paul at this point.

9:00PM: Rudy speaks out on behalf of Israel, followed by Thompson. Thompson goes on the offensive against Huckabee on Pakistan, over the issue of military funding. He needs to go after Huck, and that’s what he’s doing. No good lines for that one, though. He probably should have let it go.

9:03PM: Some quick thoughts: this is Fred’s night. McCain looks tired, Mitt’s moribund, Rudy’s not hitting it, and Ron Paul is a nut. Even Huckabee is just treading water. Fred is going hard after Huckabee on the issues, and it’s putting him on the defensive. Huckabee is not good on the defensive. We’ll see if Fred can keep the pressure on—if so, it will be interesting to see what effect it has at the polls.

9:05PM: Mitt gets a good line: do people want Washington insiders because of Clinton’s NH win? “Nope.” Romney’s positioning himself as the candidate of “change” is his best bet, but the problem is that McCain’s been doing it longer. I think people are getting sick of the word “change” by now—I know I am. Romney’s is talking about his resume, which is impressive, but he’s giving yet another solid second-place performance. That’s not enough for him.

9:07PM: McCain gets a question about being a Washington candidate. He gets a decent line in, then goes back to his stump speech: Iraq, the Boeing deal, etc. However, he does have a great line about the Abrahamoff corruption case. Corruption was a huge issue in 2006, and McCain is doing a good job of positioning himself on it.

9:09PM: Now Huckabee gets attacked for a big-government record. He’s definitely taking flack tonight. He’s not helping himself by talking about raising “hope.” Government doesn’t raise hope, people do. I’m half expecting Fred to take him on over this.

9:10PM: And they give the response to Fred… quelle surprise. Thompson brings up his own record, which is smart. He’s slammed Huck, now it’s time to draw the contests. Fred’s energy is a bit down with this answer, but he’s still solid. He came in tonight with a strategy to contrast himself with Huck on conservative issues, and he’s doing just that. Now, will it work?

9:13PM: Huck gets a response. Oh, and Huck’s slam at Minnesota about bridges was gratuitous. He’d never carry Minnesota, and you’d damn well better think that Minnesota Republicans are not going to like that. This one certainly didn’t.

Rudy’s up. I’ve seen Rudy speak, and he can command a room. Right now, he’s flailing. This questions should be a softball for him, but he’s just not inspiring.

9:16PM: Huck is getting slammed about his line about women “submitting to the servant leadership of her husband.” His answer to this is sold. He brings up his wife, which is nice. The question is very unfair, and shows a lack of what being a “servant leader” is to a Christian. This was designed to be a slam, but Huckabee is walking away with it. You don’t go after Huckabee on a theological issue, because that’s the one thing he’s the most qualified to speak on.

I don’t want Huckabee in the Oval Office, but he’d make a damned fine replacement for Dr. Phil.

9:20PM: Why do they let Ron Paul rant again? God, he’s annoying.

9:22PM: Even The New York Times is giving Fred solid marks tonight.

9:24PM: McCain gets a sharp question on immigration, which is apparently a popular issue. This is McCain’s real Achilles heel, although I don’t think there’s that much daylight between any of the candidates. McCain’s plan is similar to Thompson’s which is similar to Romney’s. But they all still want to try to get traction on this issue.

9:27PM: So is Romney saying we should deport all 12 million illegals? That’s what he seems to say? Exactly how can he pull that off? Attrition is possible, mass deportation would be difficult at best.

9:28PM: Thompson “we need to be a country of high fences and wide gates.” I really like that line. But his answer goes too long.

9:30PM: Ron Paul is almost making sense on immigration. I recall something about stopped clocks… but then he goes to Iraq again. Ugh.

9:32PM: I know immigration is a critical issue, but all this hair-splitting just doesn’t seem to mean much. Huckabee’s answer was as long-winded as Fred’s and less substantive. Rudy’s also flailing here on whether NYC was a “sanctuary city.”

9:35PM: Fred won. I know I’m not unbiased here, but a quick read through of the blog reactions. He just won over the Frank Luntz focus group too.

This is the Fred Thompson that I support.

Too Sane To Be President?

Glenn Reynolds notes a rather interesting critique of the Thompson campaign:

Fred Thompson is in the middle of a 40 town Iowa tour – so he is hardly lazy. And he does go on television shows – thus dealing with critics, such as myself, who attacked him for not going on enough shows. But what sort of person would enjoy all this?

A lunatic. Someone who was interested in office for its own sake – not as a means to reduce the size and scope of government.

What the media, including Fox News (the only non-leftist news station and, therefore, of vital importance in the Republican nomination process), are saying is that Fred Thompson is too sane to be President. It is not enough to produce detailed policies for dealing with the entitlement program Welfare State (a cancer that is destroying the United States and the rest of the Western World), or producing a new optional flat tax (individuals could continue to use the existing system if they wished to) to deal with the nightmare of complexity that the income tax has become.

It is not even enough to have a long record of service, going back to Watergate and taking down a corrupt Governor of Tennessee in the 1970’s. And having one of the most Conservative voting records in the United States Senate – before leaving it in disgust at how the system did not allow real reform.

No – someone has to enjoy the prospect for office for its own sake, not to reduce the size and scope of government and restore a Federal Republic. One must enjoy the whole process of politics – i.e. be crazy. Or one must pretend to enjoy it – i.e. be a liar.

And then people complain that politicians are either crazy or corrupt. When they shoo away anyone who comes along who is neither crazy or corrupt.

I’ve done my share of campaigning, and generally the only people who enjoy it over the long term are crazy or career politicians. But I repeat myself. The Founders of this country did not envision a professional political class, they wanted a system in which citizens stepped up to represent the people then went back to doing productive work. Yet in this country today, we have a professional political class, and that’s one of the reasons why our government is so deeply dysfunctional. A democratic republic like the United States should not be ruled by a professional class of politicians. It should be ruled by interested citizens who represent the people, not the government. One of the reasons I support Sen. Thompson is precisely because he isn’t a campaign machine. The tasks of campaigning for office and the task of actually governing require vastly different skills. I’d would much rather have this country be led by the most qualified individual in the field of governing than the most qualified campaigner.

One would think that was a universal wish, but as Reynolds astutely points out:

Thompson is running the kind of campaign — substantive, policy-laden, not based on gimmicks or sound-bites — that pundits and journalists say they want, but he’s getting no credit for it from the people who claim that’s what they want. It’s like in Tootsie when Dustin Hoffman tries doing the things he’s heard women say they want from men, only to discover that they don’t really want those things at all . . . .

In a climate where virtually every level of government is failing, it hardly seems smart to ask for more career politicians to fix the mess that have been left by career politicians. Sen. Thompson’s campaign is based on ideas, not on gauzy speeches. That the biggest critique of his campaign is that he doesn’t seem all that interested in the process of campaigning should be an asset rather than a liability.

We get the politicians we ask for, and when we ask for people whose main talent is whispering sweet nothings in our ear and then raiding the Treasury for their own interests, is it any wonder that our political institutions are seen as out of touch, incompetent, and untrustworthy?

Sen. Thompson is a candidate of substance, and what this government so desperately needs is real substance.

Fred’s Message To Voters

Fred Thompson has a lengthy video message to Iowa voters, which lays out in some detail the case for his candidacy:

What struck me about this message is that Sen. Thompson reached out to Democratic voters as well:

You know, when I’m asked which of the current group of Democratic candidates I prefer to run against, I always say it really doesn’t matter… These days all those candidates, all the Democratic leaders, are one and the same. They’re all Moore Democrats. They’ve allowed these radicals to take control of their party and dictate their course.

So this election is important not just to enact our conservative principles. This election is important to salvage a once-great political party from the grip of extremism and shake it back to its senses. It’s time to give not just Republicans but independents, and, yes, good Democrats a chance to call a halt to the leftward lurch of the once-proud party of working people.

So in seeking the nomination of my own party, I want to say something a little unusual. I am asking my fellow Republicans to vote for me not only for what I have to say to them, but for what I have to say to the members of the other party—the millions of Democrats who haven’t left the Democratic party so much as their party’s national leadership has left them.

For all the phony populism of the Democratic Party, they’re not the party of working people, no matter how much they protest to the contrary. The Democratic Party in its modern incarnation represents the interests of the secular coastal left. They have to adopt a populist veneer because if they were honest to the American people they would never win election in a country where self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals 2-1. What do they stand for? A United States with a foreign policy that fecklessly thinks that Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can be talked into ending their campaign of terrorism across the globe. A United States in which Osama bin Laden is given the same procedural rights that Tony Soprano would have. A United States of higher taxes, unlimited abortion on demand (at taxpayer expense) and a United States that would follow the failing model of Britain’s NHS or Canada’s socialized healthcare system. Is this really the United States that is envisioned by the mainstream of American society? The Democrats are deluded enough to think that if they can wrap the bitter pill of Fabian socialism in enough sugary rhetoric, the American people will swallow it.

The American people deserve better than that.

Sen. Thompson represents the basic principles of the Republican Party—a strong national defense, respect for the values which create a successful society, and the sort of limited government that our Founders intended. It seems that the primary critique of Sen. Thompson—that he doesn’t campaign hard enough—is a substance-free critique. The reality is that Sen. Thompson’s campaign is the more intellectual strenuous, the one with the best policy positions, and the clearest in its goals and objectives.

What this country needs is not someone who can claim to “feel your pain” while letting this country continue to slide. What we need is a leader, someone who is willing to make the hard decisions that will need to be made in the next few years. The next Administration will almost certainly have to deal with an entitlement crisis that will quickly consume trillions of dollars. Who is best equipped to handle that crisis? A candidate who talks about the problem or a candidate who has a plan on the table that can realistically solve it?

There’s something to be said for style, but it doesn’t substitute for real substance. This country needs solutions, not more empty rhetoric. Sen. Thompson has put those solutions on the table, which is why he deserves the support of Iowa voters this Thursday.

Why Is The Media So Scared Of Fred Thompson?

Fred Thompson comes out against another smear by another irresponsible reporter:

Today I had this story written about me regarding what I said at a Town Hall event in Burlington, Iowa by a reporter who wasn’t even at the event. Incidentally, I declined to be interviewed by this particular reporter yesterday for reasons which will soon be apparent.

In referring to me, she reported “he doesn’t like modern campaigning, isn’t interested in running for President, and will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win.

Below is a transcript of what I actually said in response to a question by a local Burlington resident which was the basis of the reporter’s story.

It is clear that there are those in the media who will exact a high price for candor and from those whom they consider to be insufficiently ambitious. But it is with increasing amazement that we see that those who are willing to slant or leave out important parts of a story to make their point.

I used to attribute the “lazy Thompson” narrative to nothing more than the media’s own lack of interest in real coverage—but with the number of times Sen. Thompson has been deliberately misquoted I’m starting to wonder if there’s something more at play here. I’m starting to wonder if the media isn’t afraid of Sen. Thompson. After all, the media leans heavily Democratic—and they have a vested interest in seeing the weakest possible Republican challenger to their heir apparent Hillary Clinton. That’s why the media has been playing hands-off with Mike Huckabee—they know that his pseudo-populism would fracture the economic and social wings of the Republican coalition and ensure a Clinton victory. Sen. Thompson is an authentic conservative on both fiscal and social issues. He’s strongly pro-life, he’s strong against earmarks, and when it comes to judges, Sen. Thompson is the one that President Bush chose to help Chief Justice Roberts through the Senate. Thompson would keep the Republican base together in a way that few—if any— of the other Republican hopefuls can.

No wonder they’re afraid.

What Sen. Thompson actually said in Iowa reminds me of precisely why I support Sen. Thompson’s bid for the Presidency. He isn’t a career politician, nor is he a member of the Beltway political class. From Sen. Thompson’s remarks:

If people really want in their president super type-a personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night and been thinking about for years how they win the presidency of the United States, someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning, I ain’t that guy. So I hope I’ve discussed that and didn’t talk you out of anything. I honestly want – I can’t imagine a worse set of circumstances [than] achieving the Presidency of the United States under false pretenses. I go out of my way to be myself.

We’ve had enough of phony political hacks pandering to every possible group under the sun. The professional political class in this country is an affront to the values of citizen leadership that the Founders desired. Sen. Thompson has a career of civil service, but he’s hardly a member of the political class. His campaign is based strongly on ideas, not empty promises and not attempts to conceal the issues with gauzy personal narratives.

Thompson remains tied with the rest of the pack, but if substance were what mattered, he’d be winning by a large margin. The media keeps misquoting him because they have their narratives in play, and they’re scared that a solid conservative might get the Republican nomination and take the Republican Party to the White House for another four years. Republican primary voters need only concentrate on who the media wants them to vote for to know precisely who is the least fit to win. Thompson is the real thing—a conservative with solid policy prescriptions and the ability to get them enacted. That’s what the media fears, and that’s what the country most desperately needs.

Burning Shoe Leather In Iowa

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.

They Report, You Deride

Dan Riehl catches The Politico‘s Roger Simon (not to be confused with the blogger of the same name) in some biased reporting on a recent Fred Thompson campaign stop in Iowa. Here’s how The Politico put it:

Inside, Thompson shook a few hands — there were only about 15 people there — and then Chief Dan McKenzie handed Thompson the chief’s fire hat so Thompson could put it on.

Thompson looked at it with a sour expression on his face.

“I’ve got a silly hat rule,” Thompson said.

In point of fact, the “silly” hat was the one Chief McKenzie wore to fires and I am guessing none of the firefighters in attendance considered it particularly silly, but Thompson was not going to put it on. He just stood there holding it and staring at it.

To save the moment, Jeri Thompson took the hat from her husband’s hands and put it on her head.

“You look cute,” Thompson said to her. She did.

Unfortunately for The Politico, a CBS News reporter happened to be there and captured the actual event:

Instead of the awkward moment that Simon portrayed, it was a good-natured exchange between Thompson, his wife, and the firemen. Besides, there’s a good reason why politicians should be careful about wearing inappropriate headgear. Indeed, Simon has a history of being down on Fred as a candidate.

This just goes to show how the media doesn’t always give you the straight story. With the advent of things like YouTube it’s harder for people to get away with these mischaracterizations. The media has a narrative, and sometimes that narrative and reality don’t occupy the same ZIP code.

There have been many criticisms of Thompson’s campaign style (or lack thereof). Given that Thompson is on a major bus tour of Iowa, visiting 54 of the state’s 99 countries in the days before Christmas, that narrative might end up haunting the media. Iowa’s voters tend not to do what the media thinks they’ll do, which makes for a much more interesting race. When you’re locked into one mode of looking at the world, it’s much more difficult to see the nuances that can quickly decide a race as close as this one.

Fred’s “I Paid For This Microphone Moment”

Fred Thompson is getting some good reviews of his debate performance this afternoon, while the Des Moines Register (or as we used to call it “The Locust Street Liar”) is getting hammered for running a joke of a debate. The former Senator got a couple of good shots in, most notably when he went after the idiocy of the debate format:

Note the focus meters going through the roof—if Thompson can connect like that more often this race could get very interesting.

Thompson could easily come in a strong third in Iowa, which gives him some room in the key contests in South Carolina and Florida. This race is very much up in the air, and Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Thompson and Huckabee all have paths to the nomination. Again, look at how the actual results in Iowa confounded the pollsters in 2003—expect that something similar could result this year as well.