Fred Thompson First Drafted Presidential Candidate Since Eisenhower?
Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown contends that, “When Fred Thompson finally announces his candidacy next month, it will be the closest thing to a successful draft of a presidential candidate in more than a half-century.”
It isn’t that the actor-turned-U.S. senator-turned-actor had to have his arm twisted to run. But Thompson did need to be convinced it would be more than a fool’s errand, and he clearly was not planning on running for president until others sought him out. The rest of the current White House aspirants, all of whom have been planning to run since at least the end of 2004, have been thinking about becoming president since they were in high school, if not kindergarten.
Whether Thompson turns out to be anything other than a historical footnote will be determined by what happens after he announces his candidacy, now expected Labor Day week. But, by actually doing so, he will be the first White House hopeful to actually run because others convinced him to since Dwight Eisenhower returned to the United States in the spring of 1952 and won the presidency later that year.
Friends, including former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), who has been Thompson’s mentor over the years, began urging him to run early this year when none of the GOP candidates seemed to light a fire with grass-roots Republicans.
I haven’t read and don’t intend to read all of their biographies. But is it really the case that John McCain and Barack Obama — much less many of the marginal candidates — were thinking about the presidency from childhood?
For that matter, wasn’t George W. Bush essentially a drafted candidate? Aside from a failed Congressional bid in the 1970s, there’s not much evidence that he aspired to join the family business until well into middle age. And, after he built a reputation as a consensus builder in Texas, there was a major clamor to get him to run for president.
And then there’s Ross Perot, who had no intention of running for president until Larry King begged him to do it and then people in each of the 50 states got him on the ballot. Well, at least that’s his story.
What Thompson is, moreso than a drafted candidate, is a cautious one. While many politicians seem willing to run a losing campaign for the presidency just to get the publicity, Thompson was making plenty of money as an actor. Plus, he’s known to hate the rigors of the campaign trail. So, he’s running without actually running until he’s sure he has a strong shot at winning the nomination.