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OPINION: D.G. Martin
Watch Out Democrats: Another Republican Candidate From Hollywood
By D.G. Martin, Raleigh Chronicle Columnist
March 13, 2006
LOS ANGELES - Last Sunday was a bad day for Democrats, and they hardly noticed.
Why? Democrats avoid Fox News. (Hard core Democrats don't even like for their candidates to debate on that network.)
So they missed the "bad news" in former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson's Sunday morning interview with Fox's Chris Wallace. Thompson told Fox that he is considering a run for the presidency. He did not make a formal announcement, but I am betting that he is going to be the answer to the Republicans' dilemma.
Their dilemma, of course, is that their three leading candidates have big problems with the Republican's conservative religious base. These folks don't trust John McCain because he did battle with them in the 2000 primary season.
They don't like Rudolph Giuliani's positions on issues like abortion rights and gun control. They worry about Nick Romney's Mormon faith and his "too-recent" recanting of former positions on gay rights and reproductive rights.
Each of these three presidential hopefuls has demonstrated the ability to win Democratic votes in general elections. This strength should make all of them attractive candidates for the Republicans.
But conservative Republicans do not want to nominate someone who does not share their values. And, if their party should nominate such a person, many of them will not, in good conscience, work to get such a candidate elected.
On the other hand, if these three rush too far into the conservative camp, they will lose some of the crossover appeal that would make them possible winners in next year's fall election.
Just to summarize, Democrats have been optimistic because they thought that McCain, Giuliani, and Romney would destroy their general election chances by pandering to the religious right in order to have a chance to win the Republican nomination.
What the Republicans have needed is a Ronald Reagan type candidatesomeone with a solid conservative record and values, and someone who can explain those values in such a moderate way that it does not scare off every middle-of-the-road voter.
It would be icing on the cake if the candidate had Reagan acting experience so he could talk "sincerely" and touch the emotional core of the American electorate the way Reagan did.
Such a person would be the Republicans' dreamand the Democrats' nightmare.
Enter Fred Thompson from stage right.
The former U.S. Senator is, like Reagan, an experienced actorappearing in important roles in the movies and on television. And he has been successful as a political operative and as a candidate. As a young lawyer in the Watergate Congressional hearings he showed a national audience that he is skillful, fair, and articulate.
Is he conservative enough to win the enough support from the "religious right" to get the Republican nomination?
In his conversation with Chris Wallace, he ticked off conservative responses to the current hot button issues without ambiguity. He is pro-life, anti-gun control, and anti-gay marriage.
If he runs, I predict that he will be the nominee.
If he wins the nomination, is he too conservative to win the general election?
Maybe. It depends a lot on whether he really has the Ronald Reagan touch, that rare talent of talking to people in a way that wins their trust even though they do not agree with him on important issues. It depends on whether he can balance his genuine commitment to important conservative issues with respect and tolerance for the other side.
As a U.S. Senator, he learned something about working with the other side.
And, whatever your politics, you have to concede that he is a pretty good actor.
Like every other possible presidential candidate, Thompson has problems.
He has been an ardent supporter of his friend Scooter Libby, saying that he would favor pardoning him right now. His opponents will also criticize his abandonment of his work in the U.S. Senate before the end of his term in order to renew his acting career.
There will be other problems should he decide to run.
But right now, of all the Republican possibilities, he is the Democrats' worst nightmare.
D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV's North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Check his blog and view prior programs at
Mr. Martin is the host of UNC-TV's North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m.