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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dog Days

Via Jason Zengerle at TNR’s The Plank, we learn that Fred Thompson on Fox News last night said he’d decided to delay his announcement as a presidential candidate until September because: “August is kind of a down month, not much going on, so it wouldn’t make sense to do it in August.”
That may be true in Washington, but not so much in, say, Iowa, where August features the State Republican Party’s big Straw Poll (which Thompson apparently won’t contest), not to mention the Iowa State Fair, where presidential candidates will be so thick on the ground that you won’t be able to stir them with a stick. Indeed, Thompson’s “not much going on” dismissal of the opportunity to eat corn dogs and deep-fried twinkies and admire the Butter Cow sculpture is a good sign that he has decided to skip Iowa altogether.
More generally, Thompson’s “what happens in August stays in August” attitude is another example of the strangely retro feel of his campaign. Among most political practitioners these days, it’s become a truism that New Media have largely reshaped the political calendar in ways that have sharply reduced “down time.” That was one of the big lessons learned from the Swift Boat saga of August 2004, which caught the Kerry campaign off guard in part because they assumed no one was paying attention. And you can even go back to 1998, when legal developments in the Lewinsky scandal broke in mid-August, at a time when most Washington bigfoot journalists were vacationing in the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard. (The sudden demand for punditry led me to half-joke at the time that anyone in Washington with a law degree had a chance to go on television and pontificate, during “Open Mike Night At Monica Beach,” the colloquial name for the media stakeout area near the federal court building. When President Clinton himself traveled to Martha’s Vineyard after his grand jury testimony, it looked like a Journalists’ Relief Mission).
Maybe ol’ Fred and his handlers are smarter than they look right now, and his dissing of the Dog Days really just represents his own shrewd timetable. But I dunno. Also at the New Republic site today is an absolutely devastating piece by Jonathan Chait summarizing Thompson’s handling of allegations (soon shown to be true) that he did some lobbying work for a pro-choice outfit back during the first Bush administration. Chait concludes from the general indifference of conservatives to this news that they’ve picked Fred as their savior. We’ll see. But Thompson’s reputation for laziness won’t be improved by his decision to take August off while his rivals dutifully press the flesh and munch pork chops on a stick in Iowa. Maybe like George W. Bush he’s just a late bloomer.

One comment on “Dog Days

  1. The Caped Composer on

    From the standpoint of Democratic strategy, it does not behoove our party to run stories against Thompson at this juncture. You’re digging up some great material to throw against him, but now is too early– wouldn’t you rather it get to the point where he’s the nominee, and we can easily bring him down? The last thing we’d want to do is pull Thompson down early, allowing Giuliani to run away with the nomination and, thereby, the election. I say, sit it out and wait for Thompson to be embraced by the GOP. Then, kick the oppo research into high gear, and kick his phony, lazy carcass into sheer oblivion in November 2008.

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