Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg has been a skeptic about Fred Thompson's prospects. Today's piece ($) qualifies as a bit of a mea culpa. But Rothenberg is not entirely sold on the man some are calling the 'unannounced frontrunner:'
But whatever the former Senator’s strengths, he isn’t an ideal candidate for Republicans.
Regardless of whether it is deserved, Thompson earned a reputation around the nation’s capital as someone who didn’t like to raise money and who didn’t have a high energy level in the Senate. When he had the chance to be handed a second full term, he turned it down, choosing instead to return to his acting career.
Obviously, there is a world of difference between an executive position such as president and a legislative one, and if he does enter the GOP contest, Thompson could say that he’s a “doer,” not a “talker,” who would feel more comfortable in an executive post...
Thompson’s personal life also could come under scrutiny. The Senator’s second wife, Jeri, whom he married in 2002, is significantly younger than he is. The couple has two children, one age 3 and one less than a year old.
But it is undeniable that whatever the question marks around Thompson, he looks like a serious competitor for the Republican nomination even before he has announced whether he will run.
This is a strange election. Instead of the calendar narrowing the field and making the eventual nominee more apparent, the GOP race is looking more up for grabs, with none of the three hopefuls in the top tier seemingly able to overcome their liabilities. That gives Thompson an opening, and it is likely to remain that way for at least a few more months...
A Thompson run would be a serious, possibly fatal, blow to the prospects of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who hopes to emerge (against either McCain or Giuliani) as the “conservative alternative.” Thompson would be a rival for that role, and the announcement of his candidacy would create at least a temporary boomlet that would eclipse Romney if the former governor had not already increased his standing in key polls.