A Teleconference With Fred Thompson’s Campaign Manager, Bill Lacy

Here are my notes, not quotes, from a teleconference I was on earlier this morning with Bill Lacy, Fred Thompson’s campaign manager.

Opening Statement

Fred’s in a strong position. We’re in 2nd place and have seen a slight uptick in national polls. However, we still need to translate that national support into our numbers in the early states. From a financial point of view, we were very happy with our third quarter numbers. We will have the money to be competitive.

Recent polls in Iowa show Fred moving up. In terms of the debate today: no matter how well Fred does, he won’t get credit from the media so we just want Fred to look presidential and talk about substance. He has done a lot of debate prep and will be ready for the debate.

Question and Answer Session

Q: What does Fred think the determining issue of the 2008 election is?

A: Fred would have to answer that for himself, but we’re at a crossroads with the GOP between becoming more moderate and moving back towards the Goldwater/Reagan model. Fred thinks we need to move towards the Goldwater/Reagan model. Government reform will be a big issue with us for that reason..

Q: The New York Times reported that Al D’Amato played the sparring role in place of Rudy during your debate prep.

A: That’s true. Fred has done well with the debate prep because of his time as a trial lawyer.

Q: How do you expect Fred to go after Rudy and Romney today?

A: I don’t think you will see Fred do a lot of that. I think it’s important for us to define who Fred Thompson is first instead of going after other people.

Q: Does the campaign have any thoughts on Chris Matthews being the moderator?

A: He’s biased, but we’ll just deal with it, because there isn’t a lot we can do about it.

Q from me: Fred has been hit both ways on his campaign finances. A complaint was filed because someone said he raised too much money in the exploratory phrase of his candidacy, but other people are claiming that he hasn’t done well in fund raising. Can you give us a little detail about Fred’s fundraising?

A: Fred became a candidate on Labor Day. During the 25 days of the month while he was a candidate, money came in at $200,000 a day. Once Fred got in, the numbers really shot up.

We had 80k contributors. It shows that out at the grassroots level, people are taking Fred’s campaign seriously.

While raising money is great, financial discipline is more important. John McCain’s campaign is a great example of that — they spent too much money. We are very focused on being disciplined with the money we raise.

Q: Ethanol subsidies. Fred changed his position on them in Iowa. Can you elaborate on that for us?

A: I believe what he said was that he supported ethanol, but didn’t support subsidies; so his position didn’t change. I will verify that and get back to you.

Q: In light of the comments by James Dobson, what are evangelicals saying to you?

A: Dr. Land and Gary Bauer have been very vocal in our support. We will continue to work to make a case to the social right.

Q: How critical is South Carolina?

A: We consider SC to be a very key state. The crowds were large when Fred has gone there and he was warmly received.

I don’t put a lot of stock in polls at this point since we have only been in for a month. I think we have plenty of time to mount a competitive campaign.

Q from me: Mitt’s strategy seems to be to win Iowa and New Hampshire — then hope that vaults him to the top. Rudy seems to be aiming to clean-up on Super Tuesday. It sounds like you’re hoping to just do well, but not necessarily win in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then win SC and count on that momentum to take you into Super Tuesday. Is that your strategy?

A: That’s basically right. This is a winnowing process. We don’t have to win Iowa and New Hampshire; we just have to go into SC viewed by the voters as being a competitive candidate.

Q: Does that mean you’re not going to make a supreme effort in Iowa?

A: We are going to work hard and we’re not writing off any state.

Q: Has the campaign set a date for a roll out of the tax reform you’ve been pushing?

A: No, not yet. As we go forward, we’ll put out more detailed information.

Q: It’s tough for Fred to stand out with so many candidates. When should the debates be trimmed?

A: It’s very difficult to make an impression when there are so many candidates. At some point they should cut them down. It’s actually a bigger problem that there are so many debates. It would be great to restore some order to the process at some point.

Q: Is Fred Thompson satisfied with the impression Darrell Hammond does of him?

A: I haven’t seen it, but I heard it was funny.

Q: Will we see Fred more on the Sunday morning shows?

A: Fred does best when he’s out amongst the voters. Eventually he will do more of them, but not yet.

Q: Do you think Fred took too long to get in the race?

A: I think Fred’s decision to get in late hasn’t hurt him. I would like to have personally joined the campaign earlier though so that I would have had more time to plan things.

Summary: Lacy DID NOT get a lot of tough questions, which I think is a good indicator that Fred still has very high support in the blogosphere (When someone is really well liked, he generally gets tossed a lot of softballs in these teleconferences).

For me personally, the answer to my second question about Thompson’s strategy and the little jab that Lacy threw at McCain’s campaign for blowing through their money were the biggest points worth noting for the teleconference.

A lot of people were wondering what Fred’s strategy is and now we know: Do well in, but not necessarily win, Iowa and New Hampshire. Then win South Carolina, and stay near the top in all the states that have primaries on the way to Super Tuesday on Feb 5, where they hope that Thompson’s overall popularity across a variety of states will enable him to come out with a significant lead over all the other candidates.

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