Fred Thompson: The New Coke Of Politics

Back in the 80’s, Coca-Cola was in trouble.  Started up nearly a century earlier, after World War II the soft drink company nationalized and really got going.  But then in 1965, along came an upstart cola company by the name of Pepsi, and thanks especially to a seventies ad campaign that showed Pepsi-Cola winning the day in blind taste tests, the new kid on the block was taking a pretty large chunk out of the grizzled veteran’s market shares.

This led to a sense of urgency within the Coca-Cola corportion that in a way runs parallel to the back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.  Much like the perception of the day was that that Coke was failing because its formula was lacking something, so to has enthusiasm for the current field of GOP candidates fallen for lack of that mysterious brand of conservatism that has been left naked and trembling in a corner after being victimized by Bush & Co.

Keeping this in context, when George Will essentially calls Fred Thompson the “New Coke” of the Republican party, you know exactly what he means.

Sean Hannity, who is no Torquemada conducting inquisitions of conservatives, asked Thompson: “When you look at the other current crop of candidates — Republicans — where is the distinction between your positions and what you view as theirs?” Thompson replied: “Well, to tell you the truth, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time going into the details of their positions.”


Suppose he does something unprecedented — gets 100 people a day, from now until Jan. 1, to contribute the permitted maximum of $2,300. After subtracting normal fundraising costs and campaign overhead, he would still enter 2008 vulnerable to being outspent at least three-to-one by his major rivals.

Is there, however, a huge cash value in the role for which he is auditioning — darling of religious conservatives? Perhaps. But their aspiring darling recently said in South Carolina, “I attend church when I’m in Tennessee. I’m in McLean right now. I don’t attend regularly when I’m up there.”

“Right now”? He has been living “up there” in that upscale inside-the-Beltway Washington suburb, honing his “Aw, shucks, I’m just an ol’ Washington outsider” act, for years. Long enough to have noticed that McLean is planted thick with churches. Going to church is, of course, optional — unless you are aiming to fill some supposed piety void in the Republican field.

So…  He’s not exactly sure why he’s running, and is confused on his own positions, making him not the best of candidates.  What’s worse, though, is that missing ingredient, that all important conservative, particularly the social conservative, piece of the formula that voters feel is so important.  Fred apparently doesn’t have it.

Which may lead some to believe that the whole New Coke analogy is false.  After all, Fred’s up in the polls, one poll even has him in striking distance of Rudy Giuliani with only a six point defecit.  And New Coke was an immediate failure, right?

Not exactly.  You see, New Coke actually started off not half bad, with early demographics buying the new product as much as the old product, and maintaining their consumtion over the early weeks and months.

What really derailed the New Coke campaign (aside from some aggressive marketplace shenanigans on Pepsi’s behalf) was the South.  Coke came from the South and had actually been canonized as THE soft drink of all points below the Mason Dixon line.  When company execs changed the formula, what they hadn’t counted on was the effect the profound sense of betrayal the Southern minority felt would have on their new product.

Sensing a departure from the real thing, the South revolted, and within a matter of months, the “New Coke” campaign was essentially dead.

Wonder if the same thing will happen here.

2 Responses to “Fred Thompson: The New Coke Of Politics”

  1. matttbastard says:

    Fred Thompson is apparently a worse actor than anyone could have thought. At least he’s lost his New Anti-Christ lustre among many of the ‘REAL conservative’ crowd. (I swear, hiring Jon Henke is like the kiss of death for these folksy, Reaganesque Republican candidates.)

  2. Bill Maher nailed it perfectly. they need a savior and what they got was a sixty plus year old character actor/lobbyist.

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