Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thompson knows how to get there

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.

--Pearl Buck
Reading the latest blogs, polls, and news articles about Fred Thompson got me thinking about The Good Earth author's quote. I let Google be my friend again, and I searched for information about the 1994 Senate campaign of Fred Thompson. I came across an article by Bill Lacy that describes the political savvy of Fred in that campaign. Bill Lacy advised Fred not to do the pick-up truck, and he believes it is the worst advice he ever gave in 20 years of advising Republican presidential and congressional campaigns. The talk about the campaign in 1994 sounds so familiar to some of the talk I hear about the present campaign. If you don't want to read the entire piece, then just check out this snippet to see how familiar the rhetoric then is to the rhetoric now.
In spring of 1994, Fred badly trailed a popular Democratic congressman in the open Tennessee Senate seat vacated by Vice President Gore. Our fundraising lagged behind, and I had just fired our second campaign manager. We beefed up our communications effort and got to the key task of reassuring major donors and prospects. But there was another problem. Fred had a powerful message, and his performance was solid but unexceptional. Not what we expected, given his communications skills.

Fred simply wasn’t comfortable on the campaign trail, and it showed. His demeanor was blunting the power of his message of congressional reform. He recognized the problem and proposed a solution: He would shuck the power suits and the sanitized campaign van and travel the state in a pick-up truck, without altering his message.

That part I put in boldface sounds so familiar to what I am hearing about Fred today.
Bill Lacy writes in this article 6 definitive points about Fred Thompson.
1. Fred ran in 1994 to make a difference, a cliché but also a truth. He gave up a lucrative and comfortable life in law and character roles in Hollywood to join the Washington rat race. It was a big sacrifice. He’s not running because he needs to be president; it’s a cause to him. That’s powerful motivation.

2. He’s an intellectual conservative who will please the party faithful but whose folksy style and maverick impulses (like supporting the McCain-Feingold so-called campaign finance reform) soften his image, an invaluable general election quality.

3. His experience during the Watergate hearings and the Tennessee pardons and parole scandal later in the ’70s established him as a committed reformer.

4. He’ll run an unconventional campaign: Experts and journalists who jump to negative conclusions about his campaign’s tactics while ignoring his campaign’s substance do so at their peril. Just ask Tennessee U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, his ’94 opponent.

5. While he has only won two elections, he came back from being written off in his first race. He will not blow people away every day but will wear well over time. He learned in the courtroom and in movies that his performance at critical junctures is far more important that a heavy schedule. Some say this shows Fred lacks energy. I used to hear the same thing about Ronald Reagan.

6. In the darkest hours of his political career, when the wheels were about to come off his first campaign, he figured out how to scoop them up, put them on a red truck and drive off into the sunset. It was classic Hollywood — a happy ending.

I also came across a 1994 NYT article written well before the time that this newspapers writers and management had succumbed to BDS. The very first sentence of this article grabbed my attention.
Sometimes it is the little things that lead to big changes.
This article describes the general bloodbath the Dems in Tennessee suffered in the '94 election, and attributes it partly to a lack of common touch gestures to regular folks in Tennessee from Democratic candidates. One guy relates how he tried to speak to Dem. Sen. Sasser at a campaign reception, and Sasser just abruptly turned his back on him. A truckstop waitress Jan Crockett had this to say
Mr. Thompson's victory in the other Senate race this year was almost as sweeping as Mr. Sasser's victories had been in the past. And again it often seemed to be the little things that mattered and that highlighted the differences between the candidates. Consider 42-year-old Jan Crockett, a waitress at the Country Pride Restaurant and Truck Stop on the interstate at the edge of Nashville, who swears by handshakes -- strong ones -- which she said her father had taught her meant that a person was honest.

"Now Fred Thompson had a strong handshake,"
said Ms. Crockett, pausing in the midst of her banter with truckers. "It's the little things that people do that really matter. And you know, I never met Jim Cooper to shake his hand."

I agree with Steve Foley's blog and instead of fretting and fussing over the latest polls I go along with the wise words of Pearl S. Buck.

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