Mattingly was elected U.S. senator from Georgia in 1980, in a brutal campaign against legendary Democrat Herman Talmadge. That same year, incumbent President Jimmy Carter fared poorly across the nation in his re-election bid, but did carry his home state of Georgia. On the same ballot, Mattingly won and became the first Republican senator from Georgia since Reconstruction.
Six years later, Mattingly was caught up in a national downdraft that sent many of his fellow freshman Republican senators home. But during his six years in Congress, Mattingly's affability and attractiveness helped him make friends among Republican leadership. President Reagan recognized him in one of his State of the Union addresses as the chief protagonist in one of the poignant dramas of the Reagan era -- the fight for the budget line-item veto.
Mattingly's name is closely associated with the likes of former Kansas Senator and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, and others of the same status and philosophical bent. Conservatives all; reactionaries none.
Mattingly refuses to categorize the Thompson movement as being the sole responsibility of any one group's effort. Instead, a look at early Thompson supporters shows a broad range of experienced Republicans that fully expect their candidate to talk plainly and display Reagan-like leadership traits.
For example, Reagan's response to terrorist dictator Moammar Qaddafi of Libya was not an invasion, but a surgical air strike that landed bombs so close to Qaddafi's home that he was hardly heard from again.
On the domestic front, the Mattingly-style Republicans have always advocated simplicity in the budget process, and in domestic policy in general. Neither the current immigration bill, nor a whole series of other legislative measures pushed by the Bush administration ever measured up to the Reaganites' simple and stringent political measuring stick. Put simply, it asks of every proposed policy, "Does it get the job done? Is it cost-effective? Can the public understand it?"
It remains to be seen whether Thompson can climb the ladder and become his party's nominee. But there is little doubt that this is the first bona fide "movement" in many decades to draft a Republican candidate for president.