The Corner

Thompson Makes His Move

On the Internet as of sometime this afternoon, Fred Thompson’s closing argument to the people of Iowa.

Whereas Romney is saturating the airwaves with attack ads, Thompson pays the voters the courtesy of speaking calmly, and in detail—the video runs to just over 15 minutes. Why should the good Republicans of Iowa support Thompson? Because, the candidate argues, he can win.

I believe I am the only candidate in this race who can bring our party to victory in the fall. First, because of the firmness of my principles and the trust that that engenders. Secondly, because of the detailed program I’ve put before the people. Third, because I’ve been tried and tested — and I’m a known quantity in public life.

But, most of all, I think I know how to talk to the American people about the opposition and the danger their victory would pose to the principles we hold dear.

In the passage I found the most striking, Thompson does something no other Republican contender has attempted: appeal to Democrats.

You know, when I’m asked which of the current group of Democratic candidates I prefer to run against, I always say it really doesn’t matter…These days all those candidates, all the Democratic leaders, are one and the same. They’re all NEA-MoveOn.org-ACLU-Michael Moore Democrats. They’ve allowed these radicals to take control of their party and dictate their course.

So this election is important not just to enact our conservative principles. This election is important to salvage a once-great political party from the grip of extremism and shake it back to its senses. It’s time to give not just Republicans but independents, and, yes, good Democrats a chance to call a halt to the leftward lurch of the once-proud party of working people.

So in seeking the nomination of my own party, I want to say something a little unusual. I am asking my fellow Republicans to vote for me not only for what I have to say to them, but for what I have to say to the members of the other party—the millions of Democrats who haven’t left the Democratic party so much as their party’s national leadership has left them.

This is reminiscent of Reagan’s talk to the people of North Carolina in 1976. Simple, straightforward, modest production values—just the candidate in front of an American flag and an Iowa flag—but (to use the word again) compelling. Reagan’s 1976 talk enabled him to recover after a string of primary defeats, winning in North Carolina, then going on to come within a handful of delegates of wresting the nomination from Ford. Will Thompson’s talk move voters in Iowa? Does his campaign have the money to get it on the air? Throughout the state? Or even in a few of the most important markets? Beats me. But we have here a serious man, making a serious case—and doing so in the context of a campaign that has otherwise descended into mere caterwauling.

Even at this late hour, I wouldn’t count Fred out.

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

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