Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The end of Fred Thompson

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(For a few of my previous posts on Thompson, with links to many more, see here, here, and here.)

At long last, Fred Thompson's sad and pathetic presidential bid has come to an end, an inglorious poof of an end. It was only a matter of time, and the time, it seems, was before Florida, which would have been yet another sad and pathetic loss for the once-celebrated answer to desperate Republican prayers. The initial hype, before he even declared, was overblown, and he was never what he seemed to be, or what so many wanted him to be. He may be a good and decent man, a man of strong character, as they say, but as a politician, and as a prospective president, he was all image, an amalgam of the quasi-Republican characters he has played on TV and in the movies, perhaps most notably on Law & Order.

His supporters, many on the Republican side, wanted not him but that character, whether they knew it or not, and likely not, so utterly delusional were those who imagined him to be the second coming of Ronald Reagan. In the end, he turned out to be nothing of the kind, not even close. He just wasn't up to the task of running for president, an arduous task that can reduce the strong to tears, and it was apparent from early on that he wasn't going to live up to the hype. He benefitted from a weak and flawed GOP field, securing some conservative support along the way, support from those uncomfortable with Romney and Huckabee and McCain and Giuliani, but that support was, at best, fragile, and so, having entered the race late and showing little energy or enthusiasm on the campaign trail, he quickly collapsed into also-ran status, a distant challenger to the leading contenders, an afterthought, an irrelevance.

And so it ends, at long last.

What now?

I suspect that Thompson's departure will benefit McCain, but his appeal to conservatives, much of which was genuine, means that some of his support will gravitate to Romney and Huckabee. (More here.) It is being reported that he has no plans of endorsing any of his rivals and that "he has no interest in a vice presidency or a cabinet position," but, of course, that could change. McCain is a close friend, after all.

I have suggested a McCain-Huckabee ticket, should McCain win the nomination, but how about a McCain-Thompson ticket. I suspect that Thompson would be a much better candidate in a general election campaign than he proved to be in the ongoing primary campaign, and he would instantly boost McCain's credibility among conservatives, a credibility he sorely lacks given how much of the conservative Republican establishment dislikes him.

But it isn't McCain yet. Romney remains the definite frontrunner, in my view, and it will take some time to sort out the effects of Thompson's departure.

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The look of a loser. Thompson on Saturday, in South Carolina -- from the NYT (link above):

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