Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gone Before Iowa

I was handicapping the Republican candidates for President in a post a few months ago and I stated I thought Thompson would drop out of the race despite polling nationally at in second place. After reading this article, I am convinced he will drop out before the first snowfall. The only question is where do his votes go? My prediction is they will split between McCain and Huckabee. You wait. I'm calling it now.

Even Fred Thompson doubts he'll be president

By Toby Harnden in Bedford, New Hampshire
Last Updated: 2:54am GMT 07/11/2007

Even Fred Thompson doesn't think he will become president. Chatting off-air to a television reporter, a stunningly candid off-the-cuff quip from the Hollywood actor cemented the impression that his heart is not in the 2008 race.

Trying to encourage his studio to hurry up so an interview could start, Carl Cameron of Fox News said into his microphone: "The next president of the United States has a schedule to keep." Standing beside him, a deadpan Mr Thompson interjected: "And so do I."

As some Thompson aides looked bemused and others cringed, a taken-aback Mr Cameron, Fox's chief political correspondent, exclaimed: "You can't do that kind of stuff!"

The self-deprecating quip said much about the former Tennessee senator's candidacy.

He was lampooned mercilessly after a YouTube clip showing him asking an audience Iowa underwhelmed by his stump speech: "First of all, could I have a round of applause?"

Having entered the 2008 contest in September, more than six months after all his rivals, Mr Thompson, 65, has kept a light schedule, delivered rambling speeches and shown little fondness for the glad-handing and back-slapping that is the very stuff of US politics.

He was visiting New Hampshire yesterday for just the third time despite having said two months before that he would appear there "early and often".

In the meantime, his chief opponents for the Republican nomination Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have virtually taken up residence in the New England state, which holds its crucial early primary on January 8th, five days after the first votes of the election are cast in the Iowa caucuses.

Mr Thompson is running at about 17 per cent in the national Republican polls, second behind Mr Giuliani.

But he is languishing in fifth place in New Hampshire and fourth in Iowa.
Crossing America: Toby Harnden's voyage across the states
Follow Toby Harnden as he travels from coast to coast to weigh up the mood of US voters

Just before his Fox interview, Mr Thompson had given a long, meandering speech to a group of New Hampshire businessmen and state politicians.

When he entered the room there was barely a stir as people continued their conversations while he took his seat.

Once sitting down, Mr Thompson signalled to an aide for his glasses and then proceeded to write notes on a piece of paper, initially ignoring the hosts at his table for the "Politics and Eggs" forum in Bedford, New Hampshire – a must-do event for every candidate.

During a 20-minute, meandering speech, Mr Thompson – who has long been accused of being lazy - joked about rearranging his campaign schedule the previous evening so he could watch the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts football game on television.

"I also want you to know that I've got my priorities in order. When I saw yesterday that I was scheduled to catch a plane to leave at about four o'clock I did a little scrambling around and to make a long story short I saw to it that I got here at 11 o'clock."

Many at the breakfast were dismayed by Mr Thompson's performance.

"The American people like folks that have a positive, hopeful message," said one prominent Republican.

"This felt very pessimistic. He doesn't have the kind of fire and brimstone that excites people or gives them a reason to vote for him."

Fergus Cullen, New Hampshire's state Republican chairman, said Mr Thompson had made a big mistake in September when he opted to declare his candidacy on the "Jay Leno" talk show rather than attend a New Hampshire debate.

"He got off on the wrong foot here and he has been struggling to get onto the right foot ever since. He is still at the introducing himself stage of the campaign whereas most of the other candidates went through that six or 12 months ago."

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