Fred Thompson faces Critics on the Right.

Today must be bizarre headline day.  This headline from Newsmax leads readers to believe that Conservatives have reacted negatively to Thompson’s announcement.  But a reading of the article shows the opposite.  A nice story by NewsMax.  The headline is just a little too misleading for my taste. 

While many Republican voters view likely presidential candidate Fred Thompson as the great conservative hope of 2008, a review of Thompson’s Senate voting record and past comments could change the minds of some conservatives.

Thompson was quoted expressing support for abortion rights in 1994 when he first ran for the Senate from Tennessee, although once in the Senate, he consistently voted pro-life.

He not only voted for, but was a major booster of the campaign finance reform bill that many conservatives believe infringes on free speech. And although he has been a vocal opponent of the Senate’s current immigration reform bill, he supported legislation in 1998 to help illegal immigrant farm workers temporarily stay in the U.S.

“He’s a nice enough guy, but the idea he is the second coming of Reagan is a bit exaggerated,” David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told Cybercast News Service.

“The interest in his candidacy signals the dissatisfaction voters have with the first tier. He could fill the void for people who are saying, ‘gee, isn’t there anybody else,'” Keene added.

The first questions surrounding Thompson and abortion appear on a 1994 candidate survey from the non-partisan group Project Vote Smart, in which he answered that abortions should always be legal in the first trimester of the pregnancy. He also indicated his support for parental notification laws.

During that same year, in the July/August 1994 issue of Republican Liberty, a newsletter for libertarian Republicans, Thompson was quoted as saying: “Government should stay out of it. No public financing. The ultimate decision must be made by the woman. Government should treat its citizens as adults capable of making moral decisions on their own.”

However, Thompson’s voting record in the Senate was pro-life. He registered a zero rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America and a rating of 100 percent from the National Right to Life Committee.

Past comments notwithstanding, other pro-life activists say Thompson’s votes are more important.

“We’ve been very satisfied. We can discount a dozen year-old comment when we look at the record he has held,” said David O’Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, in an interview.

Thompson told the Weekly Standard earlier this year that he did not recall saying he supported abortion rights.

“Although I don’t remember it, I must have said something to someone as I was getting my campaign started that led to a story. Apparently, another story was based upon that story, and another was based upon that, concluding I was pro-choice.”

Thus far, social conservatives are not upset with Thompson, said Wendy Wright, president of the conservative group Concerned Women for America.

“I’m only speaking anecdotally, but I’ve had a lot of conversations about Fred Thompson, and I’m not sensing any concerns,” Wright told Cybercast News Service. “What they’re saying now is that he’s had a solid pro-life voting record.”

On an issue that strongly divides Republicans – illegal immigration – Thompson has staked out a position against the current Senate bill that would provide a path for citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants already here, create a temporary worker program and stiffen penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

He even used his spot as a guest host on the Paul Harvey radio program to voice opposition.

However, in the Senate, Thompson voted in 1998 for a bill that established a temporary farm worker program, similar to the guest worker program supported by Bush.

John Vinson, president of American Immigration Control, said no candidate is perfect but believes there are reasons to oppose Thompson.

“I’m happy he condemned the bill in the Senate,” Vinson told Cybercast News Service. “But I’m bothered he doesn’t seem to think we should encourage them to go back.”

Thompson’s supporters have no questions about his conservative credentials.

“I know Fred Thompson is a man of his word,” Tennessee State Rep. Jason Mumpower, a member of the national Draft Fred Thompson 2008 Committee, told Cybercast News Service. “I know that he said no to this amnesty bill. I know what he did on abortion. I trust him. If America takes a look at him, they’ll see the same thing I see.”

In the Senate, Thompson joined some moderate Republicans in voting to raise the minimum wage in 1996, in voting for a “patient’s bill of rights” in 2001 to mandate better coverage by health-care plans and in supporting the 2001 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.

The campaign finance reform bill, sponsored by Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, angered many conservatives who believe restrictions on political donations violate free speech.

Thompson’s support for the proposal was one of the reasons he was among just four Republican senators to support the McCain 2000 presidential campaign. McCain is also running for the 2008 GOP nomination.

“He was a reliable conservative in the Senate except for the McCain-Feingold bill, and that’s because he was enamored with John McCain,” Keene said.

On a similar front, when Thompson chaired investigative hearings probing alleged illegal fundraising by Democrats in the 1996 election, he expanded the probe to include his own party as well.

In the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, Thompson voted not guilty on the charge of perjury, but did vote to remove Clinton from office on the charge of obstruction of justice.

Among the conservative groups that rank members of Congress based on their voting records, the American Conservative Union gave Thompson an 84 percent rating in 2001. In the most recent ratings, the Christian Coalition gave Thompson a 77 percent score and the Eagle Forum a 75 percent score in 2002.

Those rankings are comparable to interest groups’ scores for McCain, who is often scorned by the right.

Because former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, two of the Republican presidential front-runners, were never in Congress, they were never ranked. However, both are facing scrutiny concerning their past support of abortion rights, homosexual rights and gun control.

Romney changed his position on these matters after entering the presidential race, while Giuliani has maintained his stances.

“[Thompson] will stand not as an absolute conservative, but conservative compared to the frontrunners,” John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, told Cybercast News Service.

“Rudy Giuliani is not a conservative, Mitt Romney will have problems based on his positions as governor of Massachusetts, and John McCain — though he has a conservative voting record — has problems with campaign finance reform and immigration reform,” Geer added.

Geer compared Thompson’s record to that of former Tennessee Republican Sen. Howard Baker, for whom Thompson worked during the 1970s.

“[Thompson] has a reasonably conservative record on social issues, but that’s not what drives him,” Geer said. “He’s more of a Reaganite small-government Republican.”

While it is not in the realm of public policy, Thompson’s reputation as a lady’s man between the nearly two decades he was divorced and remarried could also come up in the presidential race.

During a meeting with House Republicans in April, he reportedly said: ” I was single for a long time, and, yep, I chased a lot of women … And a lot of women chased me. And those that chased me tended to catch me.”

Wright is not sure the issue will be a liability for Thompson. “I’ve heard a lot of people respond that at least he did it when he was single,” Wright said. “He seems to have been a faithful husband when he was married.”

John McCain on immigration: Ed Morrissey’s CQ Radio.

Here is an excerpt of Ed’s interview with Senator McCain from Tuesday…

SM: By the way, we’ve got plenty of time, Ed so. Go ahead.

EM: Ok, Ok great. Now, have you or your coalition begun to do any sort of vote counting on the Immigration Bill that’s in congress. Do you got a sense of where that’s going?

SM: Hm. No because it varies with the issues but we did beat back, you know, some rather crippling amendments. One of them by one vote in the weeks debate. I think what’s going to happen people are going to go home and get a sense of where their constituents are and so it could be shifting, know what I mean

EM: Right, do you sense some; are you sensing any momentum towards the compromise?

SM: Well, as you know, I am always digging for the pony but I think that that New York Times poll and other polling data that I’ve seen indicates that the majority of Americans but more importantly to me, majority of Republicans favor this approach to a comprehensive approach and the specifics, so I hope that’s felt and I understand that talk show is, most of the conservative talk shows are very strongly opposed although I am glad to see Bill O’Reilly and some others are, you know, at least willing to see how this thing turns out, but overall, I was encouraged by a lot of the polling data that I saw

EM: You know, Senator, that Rasmussen did a poll last week that showed that there was an overwhelming amount of support for a borders-first approach, or at least – wait, let me actually make that a little more accurate — there was an enormous amount of support for a border security be the most important part of this. I mean, you’ve worked on this issue for years; why can’t we do a border security bill, a really comprehensive border security bill first and then get to normalization later?

SM: Well, that’s exactly what we are doing in my view and that’s why this eighteen-month period, of securing the border, appropriating the money, building the fences or at least certainly have the plans, hiring the, now it’s up to twenty thousand, I believe, border guards is vital to it. You see, I think one of the reasons why last time, although it got to the Senate it wasn’t going anywhere in the House was because the people in the House who I admit that they are very close to their constituents, said exactly that, “Look, you’re going to do what we did in ‘86”. You’re going to say that we’re going to fix the border but you didn’t and we got many millions more people coming in this country illegally. So, we’re trying to emphasize the trigger that eighteen month which by the way was born of Johnny Isaaccson, the Senator from Georgia that we have to have that certification by the Department of Homeland Security and I would imagine before this legislation is done, it will have to be certified by somebody else too, like maybe the government accountability office or you know somebody like that. So, we’re trying to emphasize that, Ed, border security first. National security, national security, national security. Three people who wanted to attack Fort Dix got across our border illegally.

EM: And I think that’s the reason why a lot of conservatives have kind of taken a deep breath and taken a second look at this approach. I think the issue is, for them, how to get them to trust that Congress and the enforcing agencies are actually going to follow through on those border triggers and border security triggers and employment triggers in a way that they feel safe about proceeding on to the next level. I think that this is basically saying we just don’t trust Congress to do it.

SM: And that skepticism is well justified because of what happened in ’86. Look, we all love and revere Ronald Reagan. We want to do everything exactly like him and I quote him every other sentence but you know, that was a failure in that administration. We said we would secure the borders in return for giving amnesty, we didn’t secure the borders, we gave amnesty so the skepticism and concern is very legitimate. The response I have to that is, one, then you want to maintain the status quo, which we all agree is unacceptable. The status quo is totally unacceptable and one of the responses that very quickly will be, well just enforce existing laws. Nobody believes that, Chertoff doesn’t believe it, nobody believes it and if we leave the status quo, then you have de facto amnesty. You have de facto amnesty because they will be allowed to stay here. And so we, I understand the skepticism, it is legitimate because of their remembrance of the past and people are frankly, I’m not going to use the word frightened, but people are deeply concerned about a situation where our national security is involved, because this whole issue changed since 9/11. We’ve got to show them two things. 1. A legitimate path to securing our borders but also convince them that alone, just securing the border alone, will not solve the problem. Thirty percent of the people here illegally, as you know Ed, didn’t come across our border they came here with a valid visa, just over staying. You’ve got to dry up that magnet that’s pulling people across which is the jobs and prove to the skeptics that they cannot get a job unless they go through this proper process that we are setting up which means a tamper proof biometric document…

The transcript can be found at Heading Right and the podcast is available on the CQ Radio Homepage.

My hat off to Ed Morrissey.  John McCain and Mitt Romney in the same week.  Ed is truly an ambassador for citizen journalism.  And the courtesy extended to any of us by newsmakers is due in part to his efforts.  If you aren’t tuning in to CQ Radio every day, you’re just missing the boat.

Thompson blows the field away in GA.

Support for Senator Thompson continues to swell.  It should be easy for him to count the southern states as ‘gimmies’.  On a side note, Sen. McCain seems on his way out.  A key factor in any decision by close freind Fred Thompson.  McCain’s border and immigration stance is a deal breaker in many southern and southwestern states.  If he doesn’t finish first or a very strong second in the Iowa straw poll, look for him to fade fast. 

The following is a press release dated 5-22-07 from Draft Fred Thompson 2008 Committee: 

 (Knoxville, TN) – In one of the strongest signs to date of the growing support for a Fred Thompson presidential campaign, Georgia Republican activists overwhelmingly supported Thompson in a Saturday straw poll by a margin of more than two-to-one over the second place finisher, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

 

In addition, over 33 state legislators and elected officials led by State Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson and Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxedine have joined the Draft Fred Thompson 2008 effort to encourage Thompson to run.

 

“Senator Thompson is exactly the person we need in this campaign.  His optimistic vision and leadership can draw in people and build coalitions we have not seen since President Reagan’s campaigns,” said State Senator Eric Johnson, Georgia President Pro Tempore.

 

The straw poll, jointly conducted by the Georgia Young Republicans and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Georgia, showed 44 percent support for Thompson and 18 percent for Gingrich. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani received 15 percent followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with nine percent.  Senator John McCain received two percent of the vote.

 

“If the Republican base started sky writing, the message would not be any clearer – voters want Fred Thompson to run and they want him to win,” said Dean Rice, Draft Committee Treasurer.

McCain officially jumps into presidential race – John McCain News

McCain officially jumps into presidential race – John McCain News – MSNBC.com

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Republican John McCain officially entered the 2008 presidential race Wednesday, stressing his experience honed in war and Washington as he sought to revive his struggling campaign.

“We face formidable challenges, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m prepared for them,” said the four-term Arizona senator, ex-Navy pilot and former Vietnam captive.

In a speech in the first-in-the-nation primary state, McCain stressed the wisdom he’s acquired over time rather than the decades themselves as he sought to make the case that he’s the most qualified to succeed President Bush amid challenges at home and abroad.

A campaign re-start
“I’m not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced,” said the 70-year-old who could be the oldest first-term president, drawing cheers. “I know how to fight and how to make peace. I know who I am and what I want to do.”

The announcement, seven years after he lost the GOP nomination to George W. Bush, was no surprise; McCain’s intentions have long been clear as he has spent months campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere.

Still, the event – and a planned four-day romp through early primary states and his Arizona home – gives McCain an opportunity to restart his campaign after a troubling four-month period. He went from presumed front-runner for the GOP nomination at year’s end to trailing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in national polls and ex-Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in money raised.

McCain trails top GOP rivals in campaign cash on hand

Senator McCain is falling back to the field. More worrisome to the campaign than the cash on hand has to be the average donation amount.  Without some deep pocketed backers, this train will derail once things go nationwide.  McCain may be banking on a strong Iowa to knock out a few ‘also rans’ in hopes of picking up their supporters. But given the early hand wringing, that doesn’t seem to have been the plan.

McCain trails top GOP rivals in campaign cash on hand – Nation/Politics – The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain yesterday reported $5.2 million cash on hand in his campaign account after the first three months of the year, about half what his two major opponents reported.
The Arizona Republican reported to the Federal Election Commission he raised $13.1 million in the first three months of this year and spent $8.4 million — or 61.4 percent of what he raised. That’s far higher than the “burn,” or spending rate reported by former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who spent at a more frugal rate, raised more overall and each reported more than $10 million cash on hand.
The McCain campaign has acknowledged disappointment in the numbers and announced two weeks ago it would cut some staff positions and consultants’ contracts and revamp the fundraising operation. The candidate is also embarking on a series of policy speeches to try to reclaim the mantle of front-runner.

Thompson maintains poker face while playing his hand.

Today’s article be Mike Allen at Politico will undoubtedly fuel the fires of the Draft Thompson movement in the blogosphere. If Allen’s hypothesis comes to pass, it will bode well for Thompson. Meeting with the House GOP will help Thompson get a feel for the pulse of conservatives within the party leadership with respect to a possible run. While not impossible, it is very unlikely that Thompson would run as a Maverick candidate with little support from the party.

Fred Thompson…has moved beyond pondering a bid for the White House and begun assembling the nucleus of a campaign should he decide to run, according to people involved in the effort.

Thompson has not yet decided to seek the Republican presidential nomination. But “he is getting more serious every day,” said an adviser familiar with Thompson’s plans.

Thompson’s coming-out as a candidate-in-waiting will be a May 4 appearance at the 45th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County in the heart of Ronald Reagan country in Southern California. The invitation was widely sought by aspiring Republicans, and his advisers expect considerable media attention around the visit. But there are no plans now for an announcement then.

Thompson will also stoke speculation with a meeting of House Republicans April 18 at the Capitol Hill Club, organized by Rep Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), the most vocal promoter of a Thompson candidacy. More than 60 House Republicans have indicated they want to come to hear the former senator, according to organizers.

An announcement in California, delivering a strong fiscal discipline and border enforcement message, is equally well played. With an ‘R” after his name, Thompson will need to hit California, New York and Massachusetts heavy in hopes of coloring at least one of them red in the general. With his Hollywood connections and plain-talking Reagan-esque style, California represents his greatest opportunity. 

At least one liberal Californian,  “Law and Order” producer Dick Wolf, can be counted on as a swing vote should his co-worker decide to run.  He had this to say in the LA Times…

“Look, I’ve met every president since Nixon,” said Wolf, an independent who supported Bill Clinton. “When they focus their attention on you, it’s like a light goes on. They have this unique ability to make you feel like you’re the only one in the room.

“I don’t know if it’s a gift or a trick, but Fred’s got it.”
Wolf finds Thompson’s potential candidacy interesting. He’s even had conversations with him about it.

“We talked about it in the abstract,” Wolf recounted. “I said, ‘You should run.’ He said, ‘Really, why?’ I said, ‘Because I don’t think there’s anyone out there who can appeal to the base.’ ”

Wolf said he could easily see Thompson running and winning.

“When Fred Thompson walks in a room, people want to salute,” Wolf said.

So with Senator Thompson shrewdly playing the reluctant public servant, one question burns in the minds of the GOP field.

“Are Thompson’s votes coming from me?” Sadly, for longtime friend and not so conservative colleague John McCain, that answer is and will increasingly become a resounding “Yes”.

 

CNN reporter slams Drudge’s charge that he ‘heckled’ McCain; Exclusive video confirms his claim

The Raw Story has all the great video and links to follow the McCain-Ware feud. Be sure to check them out…

The Raw Story | CNN reporter slams <i>Drudge’s</i> charge that he ‘heckled’ McCain; Exclusive video confirms his claim

CNN reporter Michael Ware this morning hit back at news aggregator Matt Drudge who accused him on Sunday of “heckling” Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham at a Baghdad press conference. Video acquired by RAW STORY appeared to show a short press conference without any interruptions and with Ware himself asking no questions during the question and answer session.On CNN this morning, Ware denied the Drudge Report “exclusive” which ran yesterday and questioned Drudge’s source.

“This is a report that was leaked by an unnamed official of some kind to a blog, to somewhere on the internet,” Ware told Soledad O’Brien this morning on CNN, according to an unofficial transcript posted at the conservative blog Power Line. “No one has gone and put their name forward. We certainly haven’t heard Senator McCain say anything about it or any of his staff have come forward to say anything about it.”

Ware instead accused the officials running the press conference of preventing the CNN correspondent from even asking a question.

“Indeed, I didn’t say a word. I didn’t even ask a question,” Ware added. “In fact, when I raised my hand to ask a question, the press conference abruptly ended, so what I would suggest is that anyone who has any queries about whether I heckled, watch the videotape of the press conference.”

RAW STORY acquired the following video clip of the introductory remarks segment of the press conference on CNN, which did not appear to include any interruptions from Ware or other reporters.