Fred Thompson Wakes Up for South Carolina Debate

Fred Thompson Wakes Up for South Carolina Debate Fred Thompson showed up at last night’s presidential debate enthusiastic, prepared, and seeming to care. If this keeps up, George Mitchell might need to investigate him for use of performance enhancing substances.

[…]

Mr. Thompson leavened his responses with the kind of one-liners that many supporters had hoped he would use sooner.

Asked about the United States response in a confrontation with Iranian speedboats, Mr. Thompson said, “I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing.” At another point, he offered that “you can tell that the news is good coming out of Iraq because you read so little about it in The New York Times.”

He also went after Mr. McCain on immigration. “I disagree with my friend John McCain on the bill that they proposed last year,” Mr. Thompson said. “I disagree with my friend Governor Huckabee when he supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.”

And the blogosphere went wild . . .

Jim Geraghty: “This performance was so commanding, I wanted his last answer to echo back to the lights in the back of the auditorium, blow out all the lamps and spotlights, for the theme to ‘the Natural’ to play, and for him to trot around the stage in slow motion while sparks showered down in the background.”

Andrew Sullivan: “For me, the big news was that Fred Thompson is alive. He came out swinging against Huckabee in ways that frankly surprised me. Funny at times, acerbic at others, he seemed much more comfortable as a campaigner.”

Even Hugh Hewitt thought Thompson won: “Fred had a great night, Mitt a good one and Rudy did fine as well.”

As noted earlier, the blogosphere was already much more enamored with Thompson than the public at large. Frank J‘s post about his participation in Thompson’s blogger conference call (which I missed due to a scheduling conflict) — BIGGEST THING EVER IN THE HISTORY OF IMAO!!! — is a classic example:

Guess who I just got off the phone with?

FRED THOMPSON!

Yep, blogger conference call with Fred Thompson himself. All those years of blogging have finally paid off. It was awesome. I had the phone on speaker, and as soon as Fred Thompson started talking, even the dog sat up straight to listen.

Bryan Preston, who has an excellent round-up of Thompson sound byte videos, thinks Thompson is a McCain “stalking horse” in fact if not intent at this point.

I don’t see Thompson recovering from his lethargic start, either. Even in South Carolina, he’s no higher than fourth in any of the recent polls. Will last night’s performance catapult him to the forefront? Especially after what figures to be another poor finish in Michigan? I rather doubt it. It seems much more likely that his blows will wake Southerners up to the fact that Huckabee is indeed a social and fiscal liberal and thus help McCain.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I don’t see Thompson recovering from his lethargic start, either

    (Shrug)

    Most folks just last week had written off Hillary Clinton.

  2. legion says:

    Well, there’s a vast gulf of difference between a viable (many said ‘inevitable’) candidate having a dip in popularity and someone whose campaign has been so anemic that literally just showing up for the debate and looking like a human being is a vast improvement. Unless Fred actually gets some votes he’s still another dead man walking.

    On a mildly related note, the mainstream folks (or at least CNN) have picked up on the whole Ron Paul racist newsletter thing that’s been bouncing around the blogosphere for a while now. They even asked RP about it, and he flatly says he didn’t write the articles and has no idea who did. In his political newsletter. If he was standing right in front of me, I’d call him a liar to his face, ’cause that’s simply not believable. But at least it’s being reported on a little.

  3. Chip says:

    AND just why do you think the blogosphere is “enamored” with Fred while the general population is just playing catch-up Jimmy?? Because WE research, we study the issues and we study the candidates…well, most of us, eh Jim?

    Fred didn’t do anything different than tie together more liberal Huckster positions and hit McCain once, big deal. He still had the same message with the same important values and principles.

    He has had the same consistent message all along, it is the people who are finally catching on to what the message actually means in who he is and what he offers….but, that obviously doesn’t keep some people from drooling, does it Jimmy.

  4. Doug says:

    I think Fred Thompson was flip, trite and appealing to the sound bite. I do not see how the whole of the US is thinking he won last night?

    Huckabee and to a lesser extent Guiliani performed much better in my estimation.

    By far the highlight was when Ron Paul answered regarding his viability…. WTF is going on in the Republican party???? We grow government, and through the country in the the depths of financial ruin….. In hindsight, Kennedy, and Clinton are more qualified fiscal conservatives than anyone at the GOP debate except Ron Paul.

  5. LaurenceB says:

    I have to admit that, after watching the debate last night, I was very tempted to change my vote to Ron Paul. The difference between him and the other guys could not be more obvious – they’re maneuvering to become President, whereas he is plainly and forcefully speaking his version of the truth. And there’s a lot of truth in his version of the truth.

    Unfortunately, as legion pointed out above, he’s either a racist, or a guy who lets racists write things in his name. That’s pretty much a disqualification in my book.

  6. floyd says:

    I think your last paragraph explains Thompson’s participation. Like Perot,Thompson might be a good candidate, but that’s apparently not why he’s in the race. Too bad.

  7. yetanotherjohn says:

    I think a lot of the GOP primary voters are like me. There are things they like about every candidate and there are things they dislike. Fred has two paths to the presidency. Path one has him making a surprise, come from behind better showing than expected in SC and going on from there (Romney and Huckabe losing in MI will help here). Path two is longer and has him pulling enough support that he gets the VP nod. I’m sure you can think of a couple of candidates who would benefit from Fred being on the ticket. He then gets his chance 4 or 8 years later. To put it in acting terms, Fred has the temperament and ability to play the lead or the supporting role.

    Fred has one advantage that I don’t think any of the other candidates has, namely that he doesn’t have an important part of the GOP big tent who really doesn’t like him. He also doesn’t have an important part of the GOP big tent that just can’t live without him. If he can survive long enough to get it down to a two man race, he might be able to turn all of that to his advantage.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    JJ:

    It seems much more likely that his blows will wake Southerners up to the fact that Huckabee is indeed a social and fiscal liberal and thus help McCain.

    Another possibility is that Thompson increases his viability which takes voters away from McCain- making it more likely Huckabee wins. This is one hell of a dynamic campaign.

    AND just why do you think the blogosphere is “enamored” with Fred while the general population is just playing catch-up Jimmy?? Because WE research, we study the issues and we study the candidates…well, most of us, eh Jim?

    So I suppose the *overwhelming* ron paul support online means that he’s the best option for those who research, study the issues and study the candidates?

    Or maybe in both cases it has to do with the online community being very different demographically than the rest of America.

  9. Tlaloc says:

    Fred has one advantage that I don’t think any of the other candidates has, namely that he doesn’t have an important part of the GOP big tent who really doesn’t like him. He also doesn’t have an important part of the GOP big tent that just can’t live without him. If he can survive long enough to get it down to a two man race, he might be able to turn all of that to his advantage.

    Very true. It amazes me that the Republicans actually have a horse race for their primary for once and it turns out that everyone in the first tier has a segment of the base that refuses to consider them. Given their usual unification (and usual appointed successor) this is just amazing.

    (I am not counting Fred here as first tier, if he gets better than third in SC we’ll talk)