presidential hopeful Fred Thompson is shaking up his
still-unofficial campaign, replacing his top aide with a
former Michigan senator and a veteran Florida
comes amid consternation inside the campaign about the
active role played by Thompson's wife, Jeri, a lawyer, media
consultant and former Republican National Committee
rumors,'' said Thompson spokeswoman Linda Rozett. ''It is
not a personal issue. It's an organizational issue. We are
strengthening the organization as we enter the next
manager Tom Collamore will still advise Thompson, but his
presidential operation will be run by the duo of former
senator and energy secretary Spencer Abraham and a
Florida GOP strategist, Randy Enright, according to
Thompson, 64, is
a former Tennessee senator better known as an actor in
movies and on NBC's long-running drama Law &
Order. He has established a ''testing the waters''
committee that allows him to raise money for a
presidential bid, with an official launch likely in
September, after the Labor Day holiday.
Mitt Romney, and John McCain head the nine-man GOP field,
but Thompson often registers in double digits in public
opinion polls. A recent Associated Press-Ipsos
survey showed general dissatisfaction among
Republicans with their choices, underscoring the volatility
of the 2008 GOP race.
Enright is a
veteran operative in Florida who was part of President
Bush's political operation in the key swing state; he also
was executive director of the Republican Party of
Iowa. Abraham served in the Bush administration after
losing his reelection bid in 2000 to Democrat Debbie
Stabenow; in 2006 he joined a French-owned nuclear company,
Areva Inc., as chairman of its board of directors.
Rozett said both
men would be in charge of Thompson's campaign. Enright
is heading the political operation, while Abraham doesn't
yet have a title, Rozett said.
Scott Reed, a GOP
strategist and campaign manager for Bob Dole's 1996
presidential campaign, said Collamore had put a good
structure in place.
campaign can move to the next level with a formal
announcement,'' Reed said.
indicated he was serious about running after disclosing he
is in remission from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of
Since then he has
raised several million dollars, hired staff, and
visited early primary states such as New Hampshire and South
Carolina. On Monday he held a $1,000-per-couple
fund-raiser Monday in Montgomery, Ala., that drew some
of the state's top Republicans. He planned to visit
Texas on Wednesday.
Thompson's fundraising remain unclear, however. As an
undeclared candidate, Thompson can raise money to ''test the
waters'' without having to file public financial
reports until he actually enters the race.
Thompson has a
conservative Senate record and casts himself in the mold
of former president Reagan. He was a reliably conservative
vote against abortion, in favor of President Bush's
tax cuts, for oil drilling in Alaska, and against
criminal background checks for gun-show purchases.
He has been
dogged by questions in recent weeks about lobbying work in
1991 for a family planning group that was seeking to relax
an abortion counseling rule, and the changing
explanations from his campaign.
He was known as
an investigator, heading the committee examining
President Clinton's fund-raising in 1996. He won fame for
another investigation, as counsel for the Senate
Watergate committee in 1973, when he asked the
question that revealed President Nixon had installed
hidden listening devices and taping equipment in the Oval
A review of the
Nixon tapes and other transcripts showed that Thompson
had alerted the White House to the investigators' discovery.
The 1970s era material also showed that President
Nixon and his top aides viewed Thompson as a willing,
if not too bright, ally.
Thompson also has
defended his work as a lobbyist for some 20 years. He
lobbied for a savings-and-loan deregulation bill that helped
hasten the industry's collapse and a failed nuclear
energy project that cost taxpayers more than a billion
His wife, Jeri
Kehn Thompson, 40, worked as a political media consultant
at a lobbying firm, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and
McPherson and Hand. Before that she worked for the
Senate Republican Conference and the RNC. She and
Thompson married June 29, 2002, and have a 3-year-old
daughter and a 7-month old son.
familiar with the Thompson circle said she is an influential
figure and that her role has been a cause of concern for
some operatives signing on to the fledgling
exploratory campaign. (Libby Quaid, AP)