FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT: The Lad is Deputy Campaign Manager for John McCain. I, therefore, have a rooting interest in the McCain campaign staying in business for as long as possible. Use that as a filter through which read the following; a brief chronology:
On March 11, former Senator and current actor Fred Thompson told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, upon being asked if he were "considering running for President in 2008:"
"I'm giving some thought to it. Going to leave the door open."
This past Friday night the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices and I were having dinner at our favorite restaurant, Landini's, in Old Town when it came to our attention that former Senator Fred Thompson was on premises and was sitting with Republican über-media-maven Alex Castellanos.
What's the big deal? How about this: CBS News characterized Castellanos as "a strategist for Mitt Romney."
Whoa! Check, please!
Then Monday afternoon I got a call from mega-reporter Susan Page of USA Today asking me what I thought of the just-released USA Today/Gallup poll which showed Thompson's "leaving the door open" had generated a level of support which had him at 12%.
I'm not that terrific at arithmetic, but I do know that polls tend to add up to 100% so if Thompson had gone from zero to 12 percent it had to come from somewhere.
Giuliani, it turns out. According to the table on the Gallup web page, three weeks ago the top Republicans were:
Giuliani - 44
McCain - 20
Gingrich - 9
Romney - 8
Tommy Thompson - 2
Brownback - 1
Fred Thompson was not even listed.
In the poll which was in the field last week the new lineup is:
Giuliani - 31 (-13)
McCain - 22 (+ 2)
Fred Thompson - 12 (+12)
Gingrich - 8 (- 1)
Romney - 3 (- 5)
Brownback - 3 (+2)
Tommy Thompson - 2 ( - )
Chuck "I Called You All Here to Tell You I Have Nothing to Tell You" Hagel registers an appropriate asterisk. Again.
Rudy Giuliani, is still popular with the GOP base but he, as I may have written before, will have a growing problem as more people become better acquainted with his official positions and personal background.
When Giuliani declared he was not in favor of a pardon for Scooter Libby, I suggested to one newspaper that was one more straw on the back of the Conservative camel and it appeared to me that the camel's knees were beginning to buckle.
Romney, who may well win the first quarter fund-raising sweepstakes, will not be considered a viable candidate for very long if he doesn't make a move in the national polls soon. Being tied with Sam Brownback (R-Ks) is not where his campaign thought it would be at this point.
McCain, whose campaign has finally gotten out of the starting blocks is statistically unchanged at 22%; more important for him is that Giuliani is being drawn back to the pack. But, McCain's campaign has to begin to make its own destiny and not just be reflective of the activity (plus or minus) of the other major candidates.
Newt will suffer from a potential Fred Thompson candidacy because Fred may become, in many GOP voters' minds, the alternative to the Big Three (Giuliani, McCain and Romney) which is the position Newt has been holding since the beginning of the campaign.
On the Democratic side, Hillary still holds a largely unchanged lead over Obama 35% to 22% with Al Gore remaining at 17% and Edwards gaining five percentage points to 14%.
Gore has not indicated he will enter the race but a worrying stat for the Hillary and Barack campaigns has to be Gallup's point that Gore is viewed favorably by 84% of Democrats - a full 10 percentage points higher than Clinton.
If Gore follows Thompson's construct that he is "leaving the door open" for a Presidential run, the Democratic race will turn into a mad scramble probably ending up in a Gore v. Clinton stretch run next February 5.
The Boston Globe has a piece by the AP's Nedra Pickler, wondering whether there is any substance to the Obama campaign.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the transcript of Fred Thompson's interview on Fox, the Gallup analysis of this latest poll and the AP piece on Obama. Also a Mullfoto which makes me smile and a Catchy Caption of the Day which will make you wonder.