The Corner

More, More Thompson

Many pro-Thompson e-mails, many of which are very bullish about his chances. Here is a representative sampling:

Hey Rich-

I’m sure you caught Jonah’s “Thompson=Howard Baker, not Reagan” comment and I think this is worth keeping in mind:

When Republicans use the term “Reagan conservative” today, I think we’re just pining for an actual conservative who can explain his positions without a wink to the New York Times and without being confronted by prior inconsistent statements made within this decade. In essence, we want an articulate alternative to “checklist conservatism.” The top tier contains exactly two such men (Gingrich and Thompson), and Fred doesn’t have the built-in image negatives, and his affection for younger women during the 90’s occurred while he was single.  

Also, I don’t recall the Howard Baker wing of the party being huge voluptuaries of federalism. But as he was explaining to Chris Wallace how federalism is the conservative elixir for many of our social controversies (see, I thought “he’s either plagiarizing Jonah, or this is a guy who’s given some serious philosophical thought to this.” The Baker comparison is probably most apt in Thompson’s old-school sense of civility for colleagues and staffers, a virtue that McCain lacked, and which was probably the chief impediment to receiving much establishment street cred in 2000. And that’s what I think Thompson could hope to be in this race: Stylistically like the McCain of 2000 (straight-talking, outsider-ish, interesting 1970’s biography), but with genuine establishment affection in a race in which (quite unlike 2000) the establishment’s center of gravity remains indeterminate.


Your guy is looking at this the wrong way. (May be a case of Beltwayitis- strong it is these days in “our people.”)  Most uncommitted conservatives (I am one long suffering here in CT) would line up with Thompson immediately.  We all know who he is and believe him to be a man of conviction on the things that matter to us (taxes, gun rights, abortion, the judiciary, Iraq, GWOT, etc.).  A large chunk of conservatives who are now swallowing hard and supporting either McCain or Giuliani as our “best hope,” would swing to Thompson in a heartbeat. (See Ramesh…)  Also, most of the conservative also-rans are going to drop out as none of them are getting measurable support.  Supporters of these few go to Fred also with the exception of the Flat Earth crowd over at Camp Tancredo.

That brings us to Mr. Romney.  His convenient changing of positions tells a lot of us that he is a prime candidate for “growth” in office, while his Mormonism makes him a dead letter with the most loyal voters in our coalition.  Fairly or not, a lot of us out here perceive him to be unreliable and unelectable.  Fred gets most of his supporters too.

What this all leaves us with is a two man race between Rudy and Fred, as McCain and Romney and most of the weak sisters eventually drop out.  In this scenario Fred wins more of the primary vote than Bush in 2000.  The problem with this scenario is that Fred is tight with McCain and it might take an embarrassing primary defeat to get the old man out.  Does Fred have the stomach for that?  I don’t know.

I agree if Gingrich gets in, it is muddier.  But again, I think most Republicans don’t see him as electable either.  Personally, I think he’s a candidate for “growth” too.

–Subject: Fred 08

As a conservative I was going to settle for Rudy.Now I won’t have to settle. . I think Sen. Thompson has already talked to the money people and  knows where his backing is coming from.. He would be a fool not to have,and nobody has ever accused Fred of being a fool.

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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