07 June 2007

Thompson Surges Into Second Place

While former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson has simply formed an exploratory campaign committee, the mere expectation that he will enter the field of GOP presidential candidates has vaulted him into second place in the polls focused on those Republican contenders.

A new InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion national survey is the first one taken after Thompson made his move toward a probable, eventual announcement that he's running. It showed Rudy Giuliani still leading at 28 percent, but Thompson had surged into second place with 19 percent, followed by John McCain and Mitt Romney with 17 percent each.

Now the critical question is whether Fred Thompson can take the political capital he's already gained by simply saying he's ready to run, and turn it into an overtaking of Giuliani and the other contenders in a Republican slugfest.

The Thompson campaign is a textbook example of how political rumor can become political reality. Few candidates ever enjoy the opportunity of truly being "drafted" into a presidential campaign.

In April and May, many Republican insiders who consider themselves conservative, but not the wacky right, burned up telephone lines in search of an alternative to what many view as an uninspired group of candidates. When Thompson's name emerged, those close to him seized the moment.

Former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Mack Mattingly of Georgia was one of them. He was an early architect of the "draft Fred" movement.

Early Thompson supporters like Mattingly are Reagan Republicans to the core. They don't talk about reducing the cost of government; they obsess about it. They're skeptical of the influence of special-interest groups, and of government intervention in our lives. These are not "neocons," but rather the last lions of the Reagan era. They're soft-spoken, but passionate.

Mattingly refuses to categorize the Thompson movement as being the sole responsibility of any one group's effort. Instead, a look at early Thompson supporters shows a broad range of experienced Republicans that fully expect their candidate to talk plainly and display Reagan-like leadership traits.

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