For the last week or so I have found it suspect that Fred Thompson has not announced his official candidacy for president. The first thought I had was that he was not going to end up running. The general reasoning for my doubt was that the first week of July came and went and we are not hearing much of campaigning or major speeches; both Giuliani and Romney were quite active drumming up support during their exploratory periods. Were the rumors of Thompson being lazy true? Is his heart not really in it? Does he think that he is peaking now and that there is no where to go but down? These are the questions I was asking. I think each of these may have some truth to them and I felt there was significant that he may not get in.
But then, how does any individual who is leading many of the current polls for the position of “leader of the free world,” without even being an official candidate mind you, simply not have it in him to run. It doesn’t make much sense (although, not necessarily unprecedented). What I think is really going on is that Fred probably believes that he is in a perfect situation, he is not in the race yet, so is only focusing on fundraising rather than spending. He is getting free publicity because people will speculate about him, and his poll numbers are high, perhaps peaking right now. Why not ride it as long as possible, watch the polls and, when he sees significant slippage, announce. Such an announcement will give him another boost in the polls and many will call him the conservatives savior (although he is no more conservative than McCain or Romney) – he will look the outsider riding into save the day. Additionally, waiting as long as he can to limit the time between the announcement and the Iowa Caucus could be an extremely profitable calculated risk. If he can ride the current polls without dropping into third through the end of August or even the beginning of September, he will be able to ride another “announcement wave” in the polls through likely the beginning to middle of October before the stars realign and he is brought back to the pack. This only gives the Romneys and Giulianis about 3 months to really do some damage and there may not be enough time for the public to tire of him like the may with some of the other candidates. I generally think that this is what Thompson is betting. I doubt he will wait until after labor day to announce (especially because of Gingrich’s lingering presence), but it wouldn’t surprise me to not hear anything before August 15th. Although, I really don’t think it will even be that long.
The risk of this type of strategy is that Romney and Giuliani will try to shape who Thompson is before he enters the race, the voters may not ever feel as comfortable with him in the early states because they have gotten to know the other candidates so well. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Romney will have both Iowa and New Hampshire in a vice grip by labor day. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that Thompson will put much effort into either of those two races. His best bet would be to rely on the South – South Carolina and Florida – and also be the only GOPer to really invest in Nevada for a little extra boost (remember, Las Vegas is like another Hollywood, FT would translate well there).
Personally, I don’t think Thompson has what it takes. I think he may be the GOPs Howard Dean (without the insanity); he will ride high for a while but his late entry, low funds, and after his voting and lobby record reaches the public, much of his allure will rub off. It looks as if Mitt is going to be one of the final two GOPers standing, after that it will come down to Thompson and Giuliani fighting it out in states like Florida and California. Thompson certainly is in a great position and has a significant chance for the nomination, but it will not get any easier than it is right now for him.