The Guardian (UK) on Fred

The Guardian takes a look at Fred, and apparently likes what it sees:

In real life, Mr Thompson likes to portray himself as a folksy good ol' boy. Remarried with two very small children, and a successful lawyer, he also has something of a reputation as a ladies' man. Country singer Lorrie Morgan, a long-time companion of Mr Thompson's, described the attraction: "Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us."

Although he is currently pitching in from the sidelines without the scrutiny a real candidate has to endure, for many Republican voters, if polls are to be believed, Mr Thompson is a genuine threat to the other leading Republican candidates, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

"Republicans are looking for someone who can win and who they believe would have stronger conservative credentials than those who are leading," said California Republican senator George Runner, who is part of a campaign urging Mr Thompson to stand. "I think he's a conservative to the core, his world view is clearly a conservative one. I believe people are looking for a strong leader who is committed to a core set of values."

Republican pollster Steve Hinkson believes voters will perceive the fictional and the real Fred Thompson as one and the same. He lists the qualities that Mr Thompson offers to Republicans: he is deliberate, he is strong, he has gravitas.

He may also be the closest thing to a fellow traveller the Republicans' social conservative base will find. "This field of Republican candidates is problematic for conservative voters," says Mr Hinkson. "So they've got to decide whether they want to hold for the perfect candidate or go with the one that comes closest. From what we gather he is the closest they can get to the ideal candidate."

He also has one asset that the other Republican frontrunners apparently lack. "If you're running against him the thing that makes him scary as a campaigner is that he's not scared of the camera," says writer and avowed Hollywood Republican Rob Long.

He points to a video Mr Thompson put out after he was challenged to a debate on healthcare by documentary maker Michael Moore. The clip, disseminated by Mr Thompson's website and a YouTube hit, opens with a shot of the back of a chair. It swivels round to reveal Mr Thompson, although the first thing you see is the giant cigar in his mouth.

"I've been looking at my schedule Michael," he says, "and I don't think I've got time for you." Instead, he suggests, Moore might like to look into the case of a Cuban dissident thrown into an asylum by the government. "A mental institution, Michael," Mr Thompson says, with more than a hint of menace. "Might be something you ought to think about." With that the chair swivels back and Thompson is gone.

"That's a rare thing for a candidate to do within the news cycle," says Mr Long. "To get that done, uploaded and blasted through the air within 12 hours says that he's someone who knows what he wants and isn't reliant on a crowd of advisers."


To Republicans - and many Democrats - a film star politician can mean only one thing: Ronald Reagan. And Mr Thompson has done little to distance himself from the comparison. "Obviously Thompson is trying to make the comparison," says political consultant Donna Bojarsky. "There is a longing for Ronald Reagan and we live in challenging times. The cold war looks pretty good in retrospect."

Mr Thompson's policies are a work in progress. He is a fiscal and social conservative, who offers a steady hand and is supportive of the aim of the president's Iraq policy if not its conduct.

As Mr Long notes, it doesn't really matter what he picks, but he needs to land on an issue to define his campaign, and to take votes from the centre. "You steal from the angry middle," says Mr Long. "Taxes, general liberal incompetence, the Democratic Congress, Harry Reid ... A smart Republican right now is running against immigration."

This sort of press from an overseas newspaper can't very well hurt Fred.