What about Fred?

October 23, 2007

He’s second in the polls, he’s got a lot of money in the bank and the support of the base so why do the markets think that the chances of Fred Thompson getting the Republican nomination are barely more than 1 in 10?

As many of you know, I believe that the strongest candidate the Republicans could field is John McCain. He’s moderate and unlike Giuliani could actually excite Democrats and Independents disillusioned with the current direction their party has moved in. However, although he did relatively well in the last debate, McCain has generally run a strategically flawed campaign, trying to pitch his message to the right, alienating his support among moderates and independents while meeting a wall of scepticism on the right. I still think his chances are better than the markets are suggesting (which is why I am keeping my McCain positions), though I think the best chance McCain has at the moment is to run (with Joe Lieberman) as a independent. Therefore, as I posted on this web-log, I have placed a large bet on Thompson getting the nod from the GOP.

The first thing to remember is that, although the conventional wisdom is that Thompson’s candidacy has been a dud, he is still breathing down Giuliani’s neck. Indeed, until the Michigan debate, he was actually consistently ahead of the former mayor of New York in the respect Rasmussen tracking poll. It is also interesting that even though his performance in the debate caused him to go from a two point lead to an eleven point deficit, Thompson has now pulled back much of the momentum that he lost and now is only five points behind Giuliani. Although it is too early to say whether the Florida debate will cause things to narrow even further, he looks to have made the decision to go on the offensive against Giuliani, a decision that might be the turning point of the contest.

Indeed, one of the main things in Thompson’s favour is that there are very few plausible alternatives beyond him, Giuliani and McCain. Although Mitt Romney has been quietly picking up endorsements of the religious right, the legacy of his ever changing positions on abortion (and sadly his religion) really handicaps him. At the same time he is a living demonstration of the reason why executives don’t make convincing politicians. Although Huckabee has a strong emotional appeal to the religious right and has been running a very strong low budget campaign the fact remains that if he doesn’t win Iowa (or a least run a strong second) his campaign will be over. I also think that the Republicans are intelligent enough to realise that his economic plans and his extreme social conservatism are toxic outside the Deep South, while we can expect a lot of scrutiny of his antiwar stance as the contest goes on.

I also believe that Giuliani is not as strong as most people believe. Although he has run a tight campaign and been helped by the poor strategic decisions made by McCain’s staff, his support is limited to liberal Republicans rather than to the independents and ‘recovering Democrats’ that McCain appealed to in 2000. Consequently, when Thompson (or another candidate) starts going after ‘Julie-Annie’, as many on the right refer to the ex-mayor, Giuliani may not be able to weather the storm.

What do you think? Any comments are welcome.



  1. Personally, I think the way Fred is running his campaign *is* the reason his stock price is so low. I think McCain is the better value. What he lacks in the bank he makes up for with effort. I think McCain may be heading towards victory in NH. That would make him competitive, though it may not be enough to overcome Giuliani.

    Meanwhile, Fred should be focused on Iowa, but is still way behind Romney and is now being passed by Huckabee. Many of Fred’s most ardent supporters in the blogosphere are concerned with his meandering demeanor, and his comfortably spaced out schedule. Fred was right–he’s running a non-traditional campaign, but so far I see nothing to commend Fred’s approach.

    If you concerned with who will actually win the nomination, forget national polls and focus on the polls in these states: IA, NH, SC, MI, FL. Whoever are the winners there will carry that momentum forward on February 5.

  2. Good point, and I hope that you are right about McCain. The problem wth McCain is that he is essentially pitching to the wrong audience. Like it or not McCain is a centrist and as such he is competing with Giuliani, not with Romney, Thompson or Huckabee (at least at this stage). In essence he is a Republican version of Joe Lieberman (which is why they would be very good on a ticket together).

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