Fred!: Coming July 4th

Mary Katharine Ham

5/30/2007 10:10:46 AM - Mary Katharine Ham

Having suffered not nearly so many slings and arrows as the Big Three Republican contenders, Fred! Thompson will enter the race with fresh legs on July 4th:

Fred Dalton Thompson is planning to enter the presidential race overt he Fourth of July holiday, announcing that week that he has already raised several million dollars and is being backed by insiders from thepast three Republican administrations, Thompson advisers told The Politico.
 
Thompson, the "Law and Order" star and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, has been publicly coy, even as people close to him have been furiously preparing for a late entry into the wide-open contest.  But the advisers said Thompson dropped all pretenses on Tuesday afternoon during a conference call with more than 100 potential donors, each of whom was urged to raise about $50,000.
The fundraising is underway:

In a conference call Monday, Thompson addressed a group of more than100 supporters and fundraisers whom the campaign has dubbed First Day Founders. He told them that he would be setting up an organization thatwill allow him to begin raising money and recruiting staff.

In official campaign finance parlance, the move represents a shift from "giving serious consideration" to a presidential bid, as Thompson said he would do back in March, as a non-candidate, to a "testing the waters" period where one is, in effect, a candidate-in-waiting with a campaign-in-preparation. Thompson advisers point out that the new testing-the-waters entity is not quite a campaign committee, though it will officially begin accepting contributions on June 4. On that day--the First Day, as it were--the campaign will take in donations that it can then tout as an impressive one-day haul. A corollary benefit will be that news reports about Thompson's non-entry entry will run on June 5, when the declared candidates will meet in New Hampshire for their third debate. (Thompson won't be required to disclose hisdonors and the amounts they give to the Federal Election Commission until September.)

I, for one, was tired of waiting. I like the prospect of a Fred! in the race, but I was wondering if he'd hit a point where waiting so long was producing diminishing returns. Donations on June 4, huh? Right around the corner.

He's got the charisma of Rudy with better social-con creds than most of the pack. It's a powerful combo, but will he meet expectations? We've been mooning over him for so long, couldn't he end up being a let-down. I hope not, but the Fred! fanfare is quite something to live up to. I look forward to seeing him out on the trail and assuaging my doubts.

Update: Folksy, populist, pick-up appeal!

Update: NYT has details on the rules the testing-the-waters committee would be subject to:

This committee would not have to comply with the second-quarter filings the other candidates must report to the Federal Election Commission, but would fall under reporting requirements later this year— (clarification here: those filing requirements would kick in only if Mr. Thompson decides to officially run.)

Update: Another person familiar with the idea of “testing the waters” committees said the fundraising during this period would follow“hard-money rules” — meaning a limit of $2,300 per individual for the primary cycle and no corporate donations — just like official candidates. This person also said that such a fundraising operation would normally be used to gauge support, to hire staff and to assess within a short period of time whether a candidacy was really viable.

Update: Sean Hackbarth precipitates on the public processional. Just a little. A sprinkling, really:

He can build up Iowa and New Hampshire offices, but they can’t do much.He’s already way behind in the ground game. With the primaries and caucuses so compressed any candidate winning early could quickly turn that momentum into a nomination win.