Fred Thompson planning to announce candidacy July 4th
Fred Thompson will run, advisers say
By: Mike Allen
May 30, 2007 08:23 AM EST
Fred Dalton Thompson is planning to enter the presidential race over the Fourth of July holiday, announcing this week that he has already raised several million dollars and is being backed by insiders from the past three Republican administrations, Thompson advisers told The Politico.
Thompson, the "Law & Order" star and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, has been publicly coy, even as people close to him have been furiously preparing for a late entry into the wide-open contest. But the advisers said Thompson dropped all pretenses on Tuesday afternoon during a conference call with more than 100 potential donors, each of whom was urged to raise about $50,000.
Thompson's formal announcement is planned for Nashville. Organizers say the red pickup truck that was a hallmark of Thompson's first Senate race will begin showing up in Iowa and New Hampshire as an emblem of what they consider his folksy, populist appeal.
A testing-the-waters committee is to be formed June 4 so Thompson can start raising money, and staffers will go on the payroll in early June, the organizers said. A policy team has been formed, but remains under wraps.
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The supporters on Tuesday's call make up a group the campaign is calling "First Day Founders." When launched, the campaign will have offices in Nashville and Northern Virginia, the advisers say.
Campaign officials said they have every indication Thompson will declare his candidacy, but cautioned that he could still decide not to run or to postpone the announcement. Mark Corallo, the campaign spokesman, said: "He is seriously considering getting in and doing everything he has to do to come to a final decision."
A member of Thompson's inner circle, who insisted on anonymity, said the former senator will offer himself as a consistent conservative who can unite all elements of the Republican Party. "The public is increasingly cynical and disenchanted with government," this adviser said. "Competence is at the heart of what people want from government, and they need to have a sense that government can do the things they care the most about. They want a reason to continue Republican governance. Thompson can be seen as the adult with a firm hand on the tiller."
Thompson urged the supporters to muster a major show of financial force in early July, just after the June 30 deadline for second-quarter financial reports to the Federal Election Commission.
Thompson's top rivals — Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney — will have a formidable advantage for the current quarter, so he plans to show his muscle right after that.
Similarly, several Thompson advisers are urging him to skip the Iowa Republican Straw Poll in Ames on Aug. 11, since his campaign will have such a short time to prepare. Instead, Thompson could campaign 30 miles away in Des Moines at the Iowa State Fair, which will be taking place at the same time.
Since Thompson began hinting he might get in, polls have generally showed him tied for third with Romney. In the most recent average of national polls on RealClearPolitics.com, each had 10 percent of the vote, behind Giuliani at 26 percent and McCain at 18 percent. Since those polls were taken, Romney has shown increasing strength in early-voting states.
he chief operations officer will be Thomas J. Collamore, a former aide to Vice President George H.W. Bush and former vice president of public affairs for Philip Morris Companies Inc. In the George H.W. Bush administration, Collamore was an assistant secretary of commerce under Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher. In the Reagan administration, he was special assistant to Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige.
That reflects the pedigrees of some of the key Republicans who are likely to join the campaign, advisers say. Republicans from the grass-roots level to President Bush's inner circle have expressed frustration with the current field of candidates, and so Thompson initially will likely get a lot of fawning attention from party leaders and the news media. But it is not clear that he can turn his celebrity into a solid candidacy. Supporters realize the potential liabilities: the late start after many endorsements; donors and activists have been locked up by other candidates; a reputation for an aversion to hard work; his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer; and a bear-like physique that makes him look his 64 years.
Organizers were encouraged by a donor meeting in New York City on Thursday afternoon that was attended by some of the best-known names in state and national politics. Without disclosing his specific plans, Thompson plans to keep the momentum going with an appearance in Richmond on Saturday at the Commonwealth Gala, headed by Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Ed Gillespie.
In a preview of the campaign to come, Thompson plans to show he is a candidate acceptable to all elements of the conservative coalition. He will make it plain to the attendees and a large press corps that, as one adviser put it, "the Fred has landed."
Thompson lives in McLean, Va. Tickets for the dinner, to be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, start at $125. Sponsors who pay $1,000 to $10,000 will be able to get their photo taken with Thompson at a reception an hour before the dinner.
Thompson, who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on the NBC series, was a senator from 1994 to 2003, elected to finish Al Gore's term when he resigned to run for vice president. Thompson then won a term of his own, and did not seek reelection in 2002. He gained national exposure in 1973 as a minority counsel to the Senate Watergate committee. He eventually became chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, where his investigation of Democratic campaign finance activities left many Republicans disappointed.
Now a senior analyst for ABC News Radio and substitute host for the legendary Paul Harvey, Thompson savaged the White House immigration proposal in a commentary last week. "A nation without secure borders will not long be a sovereign nation," he said. "No matter how much lipstick Washington tries to slap onto this legislative pig, it's not going to win any beauty contests."