Does Fred Thompson Have The Work Ethic He Needs To Be President?

A week or two ago, I was having a conversation about Fred Thompson and the person I was talking to said something like, “So, with all the columns he’s writing and his admission that he has cancer, he’s definitely running, right?”

I told him that if I were betting, I’d say that he was running, but that there was a more significant chance than you’d think that he won’t. Why?

Well, look at it from Fred Thompson’s perspective. He has a reputation as a guy who doesn’t particularly enjoy campaigning and let’s face it: he has a pretty good life. He has a successful career as an actor, lots of money, and probably a good bit of leisure time to spend in a nice house with his attractive wife.

So, yes, he’s dipping his toes in the water to see what it feels like and, yes, the water feels warm and inviting, but running for President is anything but a glamorous, exciting job, especially for someone like Fred Thompson.

Running for President means that you spend six to eighteen months with every 15 minutes of your 6 day a week, 12 hour plus schedule per day mapped out by staffers. It means thousands of calls to friends and admirers to ask them for money. It means constant travel. It means you need to enjoy plunging into a crowd and shaking hands for 20 minutes, talking to people at a rural mall, and sitting around in a diner in Iowa eating mashed potatoes and signing autographs. Meanwhile, during those 18 months or so, the press and your political enemies will be combing through your background and every word you say looking for a way to utterly destroy your reputation. Then, even after all that, only one candidate out of what, about 20 on both sides, is going to win the election?

Let’s just put it this way: it’s definitely not for everyone and judging by this article that appeared in the Politico, I’m not sure that running for President is right for Fred Thompson either.

“Thompson has not made a final decision but is on track to be ready to announce his candidacy in June or July, his advisers say. Thompson has already been polling better than some of the announced GOP candidates, and his entry would shake up a field that has left many Republican faithful dissatisfied.

…Thompson, his wife and advisers in Washington and Tennessee also are drawing up plans for a new style of campaign that would rely heavily on technology and his celebrity status to avoid some of the slogging through the snow in Iowa and New Hampshire that is normally required of White House hopefuls.

The advisers say Thompson, who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC’s “Law & Order,” is researching ways to use technology — including the Web, videoconferences and teleconferences — to harness the enthusiasm for his candidacy among grass-roots bloggers and activists. The campaign also would rely on large events, such as those that have in part supplanted country-store campaigning for some in the Democratic field.

“Well-known candidates can do things a little differently,” explained one adviser. “You show up, you’re accessible, but you don’t have to go to every county seat several times.”

…Originally, the idea of a late-start campaign for Thompson looked like something of a lark, but the phantom candidacy is accelerating. “The question is: Can he do it the way he wants to do it?” said another person helping plan the potential campaign. “With each passing day, he realizes that the answer is yes.”

…So just how practical is a low-impact presidential campaign? Thompson’s floundering campaign for Senate in Tennessee took off after he got his red pickup truck, and now he wants to bring a similar dash of showmanship to the ’08 race. “Because of his name ID, he doesn’t have to go diner to diner and church to church,” said one adviser.

On the day Thompson revealed he has cancer, he hinted at an unorthodox blueprint when he said that he thinks it’s possible to join the field without abandoning his family.

“Going on the road for months at a time, and for all practical purposes, just checking [in] every once in a while, I wouldn’t do that,” he told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. “I don’t think it has to be done that way. I know people will expect that of everyone — to run frenetically around for years. And I don’t do frenetic very well.”

Let me translate what this statement means: “Because of his name ID, he doesn’t have to go diner to diner and church to church.” It means that Fred Thompson likes the idea of being President, but he doesn’t want to do the hard work it takes to grab the brass ring.

Saying you want to be President, but you don’t want to spend your time meeting with the citizenry is like saying you want to be a professional basketball player, but you don’t want to go to the gym every day to practice.

It may be understandable that Thompson feels that way, because he currently has a very comfortable life, but if that’s his attitude, the Republican Party would be better off if he didn’t get in the race in order to ensure that someone who has the work ethic it takes to be President can capture the nomination.

I consult for the Duncan Hunter campaign through TCV Media.

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