On Tuesday night (June 5), ten candidates for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination debated in Manchester, N.H. Soon, this crop of contenders will likely grow to eleven, as former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) is expected to formally announce his candidacy early next month. While he did not participate in the recent debate, he has launched a website, hired a campaign staff, and begun raising money. Thompson, who served in the Senate from 1994-2003, has recently been working as an actor, most notably playing District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC’s Law and Order for the past five years.
While he traded D.C. for Hollywood in 2003, Thompson has a long history in the nation’s capital. From 1975 to 1992, he earned $1.3 million as a lobbyist in Washington, representing clients such as Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, the Tennessee Savings and Loan League, and overseas business interests. Prior to that, he worked as Republican Sen. Howard Baker’s (Tenn.) campaign manager in 1972, and also as co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of the infamous Nixon administration scandal. Just last year, he served on the advisory board of the legal defense fund for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney who was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison for lying to federal investigators during their probe of a Bush administration CIA leak.
Thompson’s young campaign is also loaded with seasoned Washingtonians. His spokesperson is Mark Corallo, who formerly handled press operations for White House aide Karl Rove during the Libby trial, while Ken Rietz, formerly a Nixon campaign operative in 1972, organized the conference call in which Thompson made his intentions to seek the nomination known. Former FEC chairman Michael Toner has also joined the campaign, serving as general counsel.
Thompson has already attracted the support of many conservatives seemingly unimpressed with the current crop of Republican candidates. He is opposed to abortion rights, gun control, and gay marriage; skeptical of the role humans have played in global warming; and supportive of the Iraq War, President Bush’s tax cuts, and a presidential pardon for Libby. One area where he differs with many Republicans is that of campaign finance; he voted for the 2002 McCain-Feingold bill which banned soft-money contributions. Nevertheless, recent tracking polls show him placing as high as third in support for the nomination, behind former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) but ahead of former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.
With Thompson, along with thirteen other current and former members of Congress currently in the mix, Congresspedia has been following the 2008 presidential race. In addition to our main page which tracks declared candidates from the respective political parties, we now also have a cool page on congressional endorsements of the candidates. Be sure to check them out, and feel free to improve them with your own edits!