Fred Not Wowing Crowds

Once hailed as the savior of the Republican party during a time when GOP constituents were notably displeased with the current presidential field, Fred Thompson joined the race late enjoying standing in the polls many lowered tier candidates who had been scrapping from the beginning would have killed for.

But was all the hype truly warranted?

After stringing along the electorate for months with multiply postponed announcements, Fred finally jumped in last month.  But if you were expecting a bunch of fireworks, I’m afraid you would be sorely mistaken.  Not only has the former senator and lobbyist seemed particularly prone to gaffes, but that seems to be only part of the problem.

If fireworks are a lofty expectation, even a few meager sparks might be a little much to hope for.

NEVADA, Iowa, Oct. 3 — Twenty-four minutes after he began speaking in a small restaurant the other day, Fred Thompson brought his remarks to a close with a nod of his head and an expression of thanks to Iowans for allowing him to “give my thoughts about some things.”

Then he stood face to a face with a silent audience.

“Can I have a round of applause?” Mr. Thompson said, drawing a rustle of clapping and some laughter.

“Well, I had to drag that out of you,” he said.

As it turns out, the man who had stirred up so much excitement before jumping into the campaign is, well, just shy of putting audiences to sleep.  A combination of low key speech mixed with particularly uninspiring rhetoric and statements have turned the Fred Thompson campaign into something of a parody of a real bid for the White House.

Still, poll numbers continue to bolster Fred in the running.  It is likely that this is a result of two reasons.  The first being that hype is a powerful thing in politics, and will likely continue to inflate Fred for some time.  The other is that aside from soundbites and news reports, America at large has yet to have a chance to meet Fred Thompson in real time.  In other words, Fred has yet to stand side by side with his opponents in the debates.  That test will happen this upcoming Tuesday.

This puts a great deal of pressure on Fred for this upcoming debate.  In order to keep his poll numbers up, he’s going to have to prove that he’s worthy of all the hope and hype while other Republican candidates will set about knocking him down.

But even if he should manage to come out of this test with his standing largely intact, there is another self imposed obstacle Fred needs to learn to overcome.

Mr. Thompson, who had been faulted on his last trip for keeping a relatively leisurely schedule, stepped up the pace this time. Wherever he went, he towered over the crowd, wearing a wrinkled jacket with the top two buttons of his shirt unfastened. After his events, he tended to stay for only a few minutes to sign some autographs or pose for some pictures.

Mr. Thompson does not appear to share the taste of his some of his rivals for lingering at the rope line shaking hands; he tends not to ask many questions of the people he meets and tends not to make prolonged eye contact with them.

He seems ill-disposed towards the mandatory glad handing and one on one communication that is particularly important in primary politics.  But it also says something, perhaps, about the nature of Thompson’s character.  In truth, it’s not a good sign that he has a hard time looking what he hopes to be his future employers directly in the eye.

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