Sunday, January 27, 2008

How Fred Thompson Screwed Up


Holly Bailey offers an analysis of the collapse of Fred Thompson's presidential campaign:
Just six months ago, Fred Thompson was the man to beat in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, an articulate former senator turned actor whose campaign was so anxiously anticipated he was branded the second coming of Ronald Reagan before his first campaign speech. But last Tuesday, after finishing third in the South Carolina primary, Thompson ended his campaign—an astounding rise and fall given the early buzz and the chaos of the GOP field, which still lacks a clear front runner.

What happened? About a year ago, as rumors he might run were ramping up, Thompson's poll numbers rose, reaching the 20s in some surveys. Last May, he generated even more buzz by posting an online video challenging Michael Moore on Cuba and health-care policy. Impressed by the publicity the video generated, Thompson, his wife, Jeri, and a handful of aides drew up a game plan based less on retail campaigning than on a Web strategy. His operatives set a $5 million fund-raising goal for last June, built around the idea Thompson would get in the race officially in July.

In retrospect, that may have been the high-water mark of his campaign. Thompson gave a series of speeches that flopped, and raised about $2 million less than he'd hoped. The candidate remained balky, and by August he'd gone through three campaign managers—all before he was officially in the race. Soon, former Bob Dole adviser Bill Lacy was brought in to run a more traditional campaign, a move that prompted other staffers to leave, including Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department aide who was one of Thompson's closest staffers. "Had Fred gotten in the race in July as originally planned and campaigned his heart out, we'd be reading about others dropping out," Corallo tells NEWSWEEK. "But for reasons I still don't understand, he changed course, opting for the remnants of the Dole campaign." After that, Corallo says, Thompson's run "lost its energy and soul."

There's a couple of more paragraphs, but that pretty much sums it up.

I'd like to see a lengthier scholarly article on this, but an interesting hypothesis is that for all the blog-burst fanaticism of the right blogosphere for the Thompson presidential bid, old-fashioned rank-and-file primary voters still make the difference, and shoe-leather campaigning remains crucial to reaching them.

More on this as events evolve.

Cartoon Credit: Saber Point