Thompson, a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, has been coy about his intentions with audiences, but made clear in an interview that he plans to run.
"I can't remember exactly the point that I said, 'I'm going to do this,' " Thompson says, his 6-foot, 6-inch frame sprawled comfortably across a couch in a hotel suite. "But when I did, the thing that occurred to me: 'I'm going to tell people that I am thinking about it and see what kind of reaction I get to it.' "
His late start carries some problems but also "certain advantages," he says. "Nobody has maxed out to me" in contributions, he notes, and using the Internet already "has allowed me to be in the hunt, so to speak, without spending a dime."
Thompson could reshape a GOP contest in which each of the three leaders has significant vulnerabilities and none of the seven second-tier contenders has broken through. Without formally joining the race — he's preparing to do that as early as the first week of July — Thompson already is placing third and better among Republican candidates in some national polls.
Dissatisfaction among one-third of Republicans with the 2008 field has opened the door for the candidate whose folksy tone, actor's ease before an audience and conservative credentials drew comparisons to Ronald Reagan at the annual Connecticut GOP dinner here. Thompson addressed the dinner last week to a sold-out audience.
"People listen to him and see someone who's very comfortable with who he is and confident about what he believes in," state Republican chairman Chris Healy says. "That's a skill that, obviously, Ronald Reagan took to great heights."
Thompson, who's left a five-season stint playing Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's Law & Order, says his model will be the untraditional campaign he ran for the Senate in 1994.
I'm not jumping on the bandwagon yet and unless Mike Pence and Mark Sanford jump in, I'm probably waiting till the Mackinac Conference to make a decision on who I support.
That said, Thompson is a candidate I'll be considering. Against him is that he's voted for McCain/Feingold. That's a big negative and I'll have to talk to him or his policy guys about that before backing him. I've heard he has buyers remorse about that law due to the Soros ads, but we'll see. He did have a pro-2a and pro-life record in the senate however, that's more than the other candidates.
Another thing in his favor is that he got out of senate in 2002 and isn't a part of the current class of jokers there.
Before he was an actor, he was a Watergate attorney involved with Nixon's resignation who worked with Senator Howard Baker. Later he exposed a pardon selling scandal leading to then governor Ray Blanton not running for re-election. The Tennessee pardon scandal lead to Thompson's acting career. Hollywood was looking for someone to play Thompson in the movie about the case. Thompson played himself in the movie.
This is going to be interesting as he's part of the debates. There's a lot of conservatives unhappy with the "frontrunners" who are asking him to run. Will he live up to the hype as he's apparently now in? I'm waiting and seeing. How's he going to handle the attacks? Is he consistant on his views? We'll see.
He's won big in his two senate races, once in 94 defeating an appointed incumbent Jim Cooper (replaced Gore in 92), and once in 96, getting 60%+. That was before Tennessee became a Republican leaning (although it's very competitive on the state level) state. Can he do it again?
I'm going to wait and see before joining this bandwagon, but I'll be considering it in September if it shows me something.