It is immediately obvious why so many politicos are attracted to a Thompson candidacy: he has presence, a Reaganesque demeanour and a great voice—John McCain likes to joke that if he had Fred Thompson’s voice he’d be president. These assets have propelled him into second place in the polls for the Republican nomination despite the fact he hasn’t even announced yet.
But the question with Thompson is, whether there is anything more to him than these qualities. My answer after today is yes—but the jury is still out on whether he has as much as a McCain or a Giuliani. His speech was fairly free of detail and stuck fairly close to the new Republican orthodoxy on the need for an activist foreign policy. (His key sound bite was, “We must shape events, not be left at their mercy.”)
In the q and a, away from a text he was clearly still familiarising himself with, he was more convincing. His answer on the consequences of a US withdrawal from Iraq was particularly strong and you can see him excelling at retail politics in New Hampshire and Iowa. Yet you couldn’t say that he’s ready for the Oval Office today and that kind of bugs me considering that the next president is going to have virtually no time for on the job training thanks to the world situation they’ll inherit.
PS Britain & America has video of the event.