Thompson, a former Tennessee senator and Law &
Order actor, is methodically moving ahead with a
likely presidential bid, several officials with knowledge of
the plans said Wednesday.
all-but-declared candidate for months, Thompson will
establish an official organization next week to weigh
a White House bid while launching his first major
fund-raising effort. He also may visit early primary
states in late June and could officially enter the race as
early as the first week in July, according to the
officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity
because the plans were not public.
movement, they cautioned that Thompson has made no final
decision about whether to run or where and when to get in
the race should he decide to go forward.
They said he is
considering several options for a possible formal
announcement and that one scenario has him officially
announcing his candidacy over the July 4 holiday. It's
also possible, they said, that Thompson could wait
until later in the summer to declare his intentions.
Thompson is still seriously considering getting into the
presidential contest and he is doing everything he has to do
to make that final decision,'' said Mark Corallo, a
Thompson spokesman. ''Stay tuned.''
announcement has been widely expected, and numerous signs
have pointed to a Thompson candidacy, including his
disclosure in April that he had been diagnosed with
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, but is in
remission. Officials say it's more likely than not he will
join the crowded GOP field led by Rudy Giuliani, John
McCain, and Mitt Romney.
Thompson has been
competitive with the top-tier trio in national
popularity polls, which largely measure name recognition
early in the campaign. He is well-known nationally for
his acting role as the gruff district attorney Arthur
Branch on NBC's long-running drama Law & Order.
entry into the race could dramatically shake up the GOP
field, but it's unclear exactly who among the top GOP
candidates--Giuliani, McCain, or Romney--would
be affected the most by his candidacy.
voters aren't sold on any of them, which may give Thompson
an opening. He's been casting himself as a straight-talking
conservative in the mold of former president Reagan
even though he took some positions that angered the
base as a U.S. senator.
in the Senate from 1994 to 2002, capturing the seat held
by Al Gore in a special election. During his tenure Thompson
voted to oust President Clinton from office but also
was one of 10 Republican senators who voted against
one of the two impeachment charges.
campaign finance reform, oil drilling in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge, elimination of funds for the National
Endowment for the Arts, and a constitutional amendment
to ban flag desecration. He also favored a ban on a
late-term abortion procedure and voted against
requiring criminal background checks for purchases at gun
He was best known
for his work on the Senate's investigative committees,
focusing on Clinton's 1996 fund-raising.
candidacy could hurt Romney, who is trying to position
himself to the right of the major candidates in the
field despite his equivocations on various issues and
outright position changes on others.
possible that Thompson could pull support from McCain. They
have similar records in the Senate, and Thompson could be
seen as a fresher face. He was one of a handful of
senators who backed McCain in 2000 over George W.
Giuliani could be
hindered as well if Thompson grabs the attention of
Republicans who are looking for a candidate to beat
Democrats in the fall but are uneasy with the former
New York City mayor's support for gay and abortion
openly flirted with a candidacy for months following the
creation of a Tennessee-based effort to draft him into the
On Monday he will
form a ''testing the waters'' committee called
''Friends of Fred Thompson,'' which will allow him to begin
raising money, hire staff, and gauge support without
officially committing to a White House bid.
Fund-raising is to start that day as well.
Thompson spoke in
a conference call Wednesday to 100 people who officials
said committed to raising money for him. And, he will give a
speech to Virginia Republicans in Richmond on
In recent weeks
Thompson has been addressing conservative groups, writing
online columns on topics of the day, and staking out
positions on issues such as the Senate immigration
overhaul bill. He also is testing his pitch on the
Internet and surrounding himself with officials who served
in the Reagan administration and under George H.W. Bush.
month Thompson closed down a political action committee he
had been operating since 2003. The committee donated to
several federal candidates but spent most of its
money, $180,000, on a management and consulting
contract with a firm run by his son, Daniel Thompson of
In 2006 the PAC
gave to moderate Republicans and
Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
(Liz Sidoti, AP)