Mike Allen of the Politico reports today Fred Thompson will jump into the Republican race on the Fourth of July weekend, with the announcement planned in Nashville. The news leaked when Thompson urged 100 potential donors over a conference call to raise $50,000 for the campaign. Members from the past three Republican administrations are expected to play roles in the campaign.
However, there are many barriers Thompson will have to overcome to wage a successful campaign. Already, the top tier of Republican candidates has built up strong organizations in early states and gathered endorsements. Thompson also has gained a reputation of disliking campaigning, and recently disclosed he has non-Hodgkin’s lymphona, a type of cancer. But, which Republican candidates are most hurt by Thompson’s entrance?
Mitt Romney: Romney has positioned himself as the true conservative candidate in the race, leading to rising poll numbers. Thompson would likely court the same voting constituency as Romney and detract from his support. In fact, when Thompson was included in Republican polling, Romney’s numbers deteriorated significantly. Also, the last three competititive Iowa caucuses have indicated that the most socially conservative candidate captures a quarter of the vote. If Thompson and Romney were to divvy that portion among them, it would be detrimental to both of them. However, Romney has already built up a strong, impressive organization in Iowa, a consequence of Thompson’s late entry. Romney also has a tremendous financial advantage after his first quarter fundraising haul.
John McCain: The immediate threat Thompson poses to McCain relates to fundraising. McCain had a lackluster total in the first three months of the year and is fervently attempting to improve on that figure for the second quarter. The buzz about Thompson’s candidacy is sure to attract significant dollars. In the long-term, the entrance of Thompson means votes are split among four main candidates: Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and Thompson. McCain is the best-known of the candidates and likely has a committed base of voters. It is unlikely that base will defect to Thompson, but wavering Romney or Giuliani supporters may.
Rudy Giuliani: Thompson competes with Giuliani for star power and celebrity status, based on his acting career. Also, some Republican voters are concerned about electability more than orthodoxy, and thus support Giuliani. Thompson shares the voters’ conservative views and will portray himself as an appealing general election candidate, drawing voters from Giuliani. Thompson’s entrance may be beneficial to Giuliani’s candidacy. With four candidates battling in the early states, there may be no clear winner that emerges. Any momentum a candidate would hope to gain from winning an early state disappears, and Giuliani performs well on February 5.