In his comment to my post on last night’s GOP debate, HardHobbit faulted Fred Thompson for remaining “the outsider, keeping quiet and cashing in on apathy and dissatisfaction.” And while I frequently agree with this prolific commenter, this time, I beg to differ. He does raise a valid criticism of the former Tennessee Senator, but I believe Thompson has been executing a brilliant strategy.
First, by staying out of the fray (for now), he has been generating a huge amount of buzz — and free publicity. While the ten announced GOP candidates had to share the stage last night, Thompson will be speaking today to a party gathering in Orange County, just “75 miles south of the Reagan Library. C-Span and CNN will cover the event live.” John Fund (of the Wall Street Journal thinks Thompson could draw “as many viewers as” the debate. As the solo speaker in that forum, he’ll get the chance to get his message across in a format more conducive to a positive presentation. (And without a left-leaning moderator to interrupt him when he’s trying to make his points.)
Over at Hugh Hewitt, Dean Barnett agrees, noting that Thompson has
proven that he can get his commanding mug on TV and his soothing voice on the radio without even having a campaign committee. I’ve said it before – for someone with his level of fame and who generates the public interest that he does, living off the land as an undeclared candidate is a smart and eminently doable thing.
Not only that. While last night’s debate was held at the Reagan Library, many (but not all) Reagan Republicans (and other GOP conservatives) are not satisfied with the current candidates. Had Thompson been in the race from the get-go, he might have been subject to a more thorough vetting. Now, conservatives are casting about for someone to assume the mantle of the Gipper, a man with a conservative record and mediagenic presence. Thompson fits the bill.
Instead of having to pander to the party’s base (as some of this year’s candidates appear to be doing), Thompson strategy seems to be — to have the base come to him.
As Frank Cagle (via Instapundit) puts its, “Fred Thompson threw away the script when he ran for the Senate; he may do it again trying for the White House” Cagle’s right. Thompson has thrown away the script. And his strategy appears to be working. Even though he hasn’t announced, he polls well above all but two of announced candidates, even leading among others Mitt Romney (who has raised the most money of the GOP hopefuls).
While my man Rudy has shown the leadership skills essential to serving as the nation’s Chief Executive, last night he not show the political skills necessary to winning the job. So far, with his brilliant stealth campaign*, Fred Thompson is showing those skills that his likely rival has (recently) been lacking. If the latter can convince us he has those leadership skills, he could well eclipse the more accomplished New Yorker. That is, unless the former Mayor develops a political strategy designed to winning the GOP nomination.
It’s too bad we can’t combine the two (throwing in John McCain’s military know-how and resolve for good measure) — for together, they have what it takes to winning the White House — and governing effectively.
* Via Instapundit