Day In, Day Out
Michelle Cottle has an important observation on Fred Thompson:
With only three weeks to go until the caucuses, is it really possible that Thompson is going to at last get serious about the race and exert some sort of effort? I’ve always gotten the sense that ol’ Fred likes to think of himself as a clutch player, the type of fella who doesn’t need to work up a sweat in the early going then comes to life in the last few minutes of the game to carry the day. You saw this in his 1994 Senate run, where, in the closing months, Thompson perked up, hunkered down, and scored a major victory after getting his butt whooped for most of the race.
I suppose Thompson could still be plotting something similar in this election. But do we really want a president who thinks of himself as a swoop-in-at-the-last-second kind of guy? The presidency isn’t really a “clutch” kind of job. Yes, you need someone who responds well under pressure, a strong leader who doesn’t freak out in a crisis or buckle during intense negotiations. But you also need someone who can perform over the long haul, who can handle the daily grind and grinding anxiety of the job.
This is important, and the media needs to incorporate Cottle’s words into the broader narrative of the hypothetical “Thompson surge.” It matters because the media needs to take note of this if/when Thompson begins his last-minute push. I would not be surprised if Thompson at least makes a strong move back to the top in the waning days of the campaign. After all, the Republican electorate does not seem happy with its choices, and Thompson’s original rationale as a candidate was precisely to be the savior for conservative voters who had nowhere else to go.
But Thompson shouldn’t be given bygones on his previously lackluster effort when covering this surge. It’d be one thing if had been chugging along diligently up to this point, and was regaining votes as Republicans decided to give him a fresh look. That’s essentially what happened with Huckabee, and his move to the top of the pack was properly framed. It’d be easy to use that template all over again with Thompson. Easy, but wrong. Huckabee overcame lack of name recognition, but that won’t be a problem if he’s the leader of the free world. Unlike Huckabee, Thompson’s prior mediocre polling is intricately-connected with the type of President he’d make. Thompson will have to work hard every single day, day in and day out, if he’s President. His lack of commitment to going through the grind is the sort of thing voters have a right to be reminded of, even if he’s willing to buckle down in the clutch.