Nor does Mrs. Thompson's background fit the caricature. After working for the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee, she became a big-time political media consultant in Washington. She has been intimately involved in the planning of her husband's campaign, including last week's staff shakeup. When Tom Collamore left as Thompson's campaign manager, he told CNN that he was "very respectful of the desire of Fred and Jeri to make some changes as they move to the next level." Those comments generated whispers in the political community that whoever ran this campaign would have to answer to the candidate's wife.
Actually, Collamore is a former bureaucrat and tobacco lobbyist with vastly less political experience than Mrs. Thompson. Not even Collamore's friends could conceive of him running a national political campaign. Indeed, Fred Thompson's close associates maintain there was no chance he would be a candidate for president were he not married to Jeri. He tells friends the reason he abandoned what seemed a promising campaign for the 1996 nomination was that he did not feel he could manage that endeavor as a single man.
The spectacle of Thompson's Republican adversaries demeaning his wife in conversations with newsmen suggests how seriously they regard his prospective candidacy. He starts his campaign in the top tier of candidates, and is already the candidate of the South and the favorite of social conservatives. His test is how he will do after Labor Day when his candidacy's phantom stage has been finished. Jeri Thompson will be at his side as an asset, not a liability.