Novak on Thompson (Fred, not Tommy)

Robert Novak weighs in on a possible Fred Thompson candidacy:

In just three weeks, Fred Thompson has improbably transformed the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. It is not merely that he has come from nowhere to double digits in national polls. He is the talk of GOP political circles, because he is filling the conservative void in the Republican field.

Republican activists have complained for months that none of the big-three contenders -- Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney -- fits the model of a conservative leader for a conservative party. The party faithful have been waiting for another Ronald Reagan. But in the past year, nobody mentioned Thompson as the messiah until he appeared March 11 on ''Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.''

His statement to Wallace that he was ''giving some thought'' to a presidential run generated a reaction that surprised Thompson. In the first Gallup Poll that listed Thompson (March 23-25), he scored 12 percent -- amazing for someone out of public life for more than four years. More important than the polling data is his backing within the political community. Buyer's remorse is expressed by several House members who had endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Romney.

Thompson's popularity reflects weakness among announced Republican candidates, as reflected in the Gallup survey. Sen. McCain, no longer an insurgent but still not accepted by conservatives, is stuck in the 20-25 percent range. Former New York City Mayor Giuliani has dropped precipitously from 44 percent to 31 percent, amid attacks on his ideology and personal life. Most startling, despite a well-financed, well-organized campaign, Romney has fallen to 3 percent.

Be sure to read it all (the title of this post links to the full article). It looks like Fred might be the Dark Horse to beat.