Robert Novak is already on record saying he thinks Fred Thompson's going to be a real player in the presidential race. Now it's starting to look like Novak's an outright supporter of the former
In just three weeks, Fred Thompson has improbably transformed the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. It is not merely that he has come from nowhere to double digits in national polls. He is the talk of GOP political circles, because he is filling the conservative void in the Republican field.Now, Novak may or may not belong in jail for helping to out a CIA agent. But he is fairly well connected in electoral wing of the conservative movement. So it's worth paying attention when he explains the reason for Thompson's appeal:
Sophisticated social conservative activists tell me they cannot vote for Giuliani under any conditions and have no rapport with McCain or Romney. They are coming to see Thompson as the only conservative who can be nominated. Their appreciation of him stems not from his eight years as a U.S. senator from Tennessee but his actor's role as district attorney of Manhattan on "Law and Order."Apparently there's some backlash against Thompson among those who resent him for his rather dilettantish approach to the race thus far. Which I get, if you're somebody like Mitt Romney who has been working his tail off to pander, organize, and raise funds - only to sink to 3% in the latest primary polls. That's life. Novak thinks he's really going to run, and be the conservative candidate - Dobson's goaltending notwithstanding. I don't know whether or not he's really going to get in, but he clearly does seem well-positioned to be the conservative favorite. And that makes him a very serious factor.
Thompson's political origin as a protege of Sen. Howard Baker, leader of the Tennessee GOP's more liberal wing, prompted hard-line Senate conservatives to consider him a little too liberal. Actually, his lifetime Senate voting record as measured by the American Conservative Union was 86 percent. It would have been close to 100 percent except for his repeated votes supporting McCain's campaign finance reform. None of the big-three Republicans has been so consistently conservative as Thompson on tax policy, national security and abortion.