The Corner

Late-Breaking Surge for Thompson

The latest news from Iowa? According to Zogby’s latest—and I quote: “Sen. Fred Thompson…has seen a late-breaking surge.” (Rich notes the same poll below.)

What’s going on here? My guess is that there are whole lot of Iowa Republicans who have about the same attitude that David Limbaugh displayed in his column yesterday:

Fred is the only [candidate] I don’t have major reservations about….I find his lack of “fire in the belly” refreshing. He strikes me as one of the few presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan whose primary motivation is not personal aggrandizement but rather serving and leading the nation in very troubled and dangerous times. I see him as almost being drafted into this project, and his refusal to drool publicly over the prospect of becoming the most powerful man in the world is positively delightful.

That said, he needs to make a more convincing case to the voters, which will require a greater display of enthusiasm that he views these as both perilous and promising times and that he is the best man, overall, to navigate the ship of state through these times.

So, Fred, please, as distasteful as it may be to you, it’s time to step up and prove you want it.

Iowa Republicans, in other words, have wanted Thompson to do them the courtesy of actually campaigning—and now they’re beginning to realize that he has. First Thompson conducted a two-week bus tour of Iowa at which he campaigned in more than 50 towns and cities. Then he taped a 17-minute video in which he makes his case more calmly, deliberately, and and with incomparably greater respect for the issues than has any of his opponents. And? For a lot of Iowa Republicans, that’s all they needed.

The Thompson campaign may be shaping up as something like the precise reverse of the Clinton campaign. Presenting herself as the candidate of inevitability, Hillary dare not slip in the polls for fear of suffering a rapid and irretrievable collapse. Fred is by contrast the candidate who just can’t get elected—solid, likeable, and best on the issues–but, well, a man for whom it just isn’t going to happen. But as modest as it so far remains, his sudden rise in the polls—this “late-breaking surge,” to quote Zogby again—could persuade whole slews of Republicans that Fred could indeed win after all, leading to a definitive breakout.

From an unexpectedly strong third place in Iowa…to first place in South Carolina?

(If you have yet to see this message to the people of Iowa, by the way, take a look. YouTube is reporting more than 135,000 hits.)

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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