Welcome to the April 9, 2007 edition of The Daily Fred, your Monday-Friday roundup of the latest and most interesting news and blog articles about former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who continues to show increasing signs that he's going to jump into the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Today's big story is a Wall Street Journal article asserting that Thompson is hurting himself by not announcing now. The assertion has, naturally, sparked a debate. The WSJ's Chris Cooper focuses on how top Tennessee Republican fund-raiser Ted Welch has already committed to Mitt Romney, and how waiting to announce means Thompson is losing potential campaign staffers to other campaigns.
Let's deal with the latter first: Campaign talent is an abundant resource and Thompson's entry into the race may well help "clear the field" of some other, lesser-known and under-funded candidates, freeing up some of that campaign talent. Plus, if you're working for Huckabee or Brownback or Gilmore or the other Thompson and worried if your meager paycheck is all that assured, and Thompson jumps into the race, might you be tempted to jump? Of course. Provided Thompson has money to go with his momentum.
And that's where the Ted Welch factor comes into play. Welch is a superstar fund-raiser - he helped Romney raise $6.5 million in one day a few months ago - and I have no doubt Thompson would love to have Welch in his corner. For that matter, Welch would love to be working for Thompson - he told The Tennessean newspaper repeatedly that if Romney drops out, he'll back Fred, a not-so-subtle way of telling his Rolodex full of wealthy contacts that they have his blessing to help Thompson.
And with Thompson out-polling the Six-Million-Dollar Mitt, don't think for a minute that Welch wouldn't love to engineer a deal in which Romney drops out in order to run as Fred's running mate. That way Welch could back horse he prefers, and still keep his commitment to Romney.
Dean Barnett and Glenn Reynolds also think the WSJ writer is wrong to assume that an early start conveys some sort of insurmountable fund-raising advantage that Fred can't overcome.
With campaigns moving at Internet speed, and individual donors assuming more importance, I suspect you can go from zero to sixty faster than in the past, and that lock-ins of support don't mean as much.
I agree with Glenn. I’ll even go one step further – even in the pre-Internet dark ages, it was possible to go from “zero to sixty” pretty darn quickly.
In 1992, Ross Perot threw his strait-jacket into the general election ring and quickly ascended, albeit momentarily, to the top of the polls. ... It’s important to note that Perot was besting Clinton and Bush 41 before he had spent any of his billions on the campaign. Free media triggered his ascent.
The far more relevant matter is that Perot, surely inadvertently, timed his entrance perfectly. He jumped into the race at a moment when the American public was profoundly dissatisfied with its presidential options. It’s not hard to imagine the same thing happening with Thompson this time around. If a loon like Perot could hit the top of the charts because the public didn’t like the existing field, imagine what a solid and skilled candidate like Thompson could accomplish.
Barnett, by the way, is a Romney supporter who also would happily vote for Rudy Giuliani. He continues...
As Rudy pointed out last week, this is the first primary season held with the blogosphere in full flight, treating each and every news cycle as do-or-die. It’s apparent that all of the candidates will have an untold amount of stumbles between now and Iowa. Just last week, all the members of the Republican top tier made unforced errors.
It’s not only conceivable, but perhaps quite likely, that the Republican electorate will become extremely dissatisfied with its slate of candidates over the next several months. Judging by my Inbox, a lot of people already feel that way. If the dissatisfaction increases, the guy riding in on a white steed to save the day and who hasn’t spent the past year embarrassing himself on the trail might look pretty damn attractive.
So, how much time does Fred have to enter the race? Plenty.
Barnett and Reynolds are right, and the WSJ reporter, still mired in how campaigns used to work, is wrong, though understandably so. Ted Welch was an important guy in GOP fundraising for the past two-plus decades, and still is, but in the age of the Internet and the newly decentralized and grassroots playing field on which campaigns are waged, the Internet, blogs, YouTube, and other forms of digital community make it possible for a candidate to "catch fire" with the grassroots and raise tons of money without a Ted Welch to run the show.
Howard Dean raised tens of millions of dollars over the Internet, his red-faced ranting lunatic style cost him his front-runner status. More recently, Barack Obama is keeping pace with Hillary Clinton's record-setting fundraising thanks to two factors - the Internet and the passion of his grassroots support.
Fred Thompson is inspiring similar passion and similar online grassroots efforts on his behalf, and he hasn't even declared yet.
I'm sure that among those who assume he can't raise big money online quickly you won't find any of the current GOP candidates.
Now onto the rest of today's Daily Fred...
...Hotline reports that two state-level pols in Missouri have gone ahead and pre-endorsed Thompson even though he isn't officially running yet.
...Tennessee Republican state legislator Stacey Campfield hasn't endorsed Thompson yet because he doesn't endorse undeclared candidates, but says if Thompson is the nominee and the Dems nominate Hillary Clinton, it will set the stage for Republicans to administer a "beat down" on Democrats in state races in '08 and take control of the state house.
...Rich Galen wonders, "How did Mitt Romney manage to out-raise the rest of the GOP field by 50% and yet remain in single digits behind (or even with) both Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich in national polls?
...David Frum has a similar comment: "Romney now stands at 3% among Republican primary voters, fifth behind Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and two undeclared candidates, Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich. Romney raised more money in the first quarter of 2007 than any other Republican. But what good has it done him? The Internet changes everything."