Not that it should come as a shock to anybody at this point, but Fred Thompson is planning to enter the race over the July 4th weekend. I would expect him to receive at least a slight boost in polls from making it official, but the question that remains is whether he can live up to the rather lofty expectations of conservatives once he begins to campaign in earnest. Polls indicate that he takes away the most from Giuliani, but I think ultimately he is the biggest threat to Romney because he occupies a space–“viable conservative”–that is central to Romney’s strategy. If Romney is going to win the nomination, he has to peel off the soft Rudy support and pick up supporters of lower tier candidates once they drop out, but now Thompson is going to compete for those voters. So, while we aren’t seeing Thompson eat into Romney’s numbers now, I think Thompson’s entrance lowers the ceiling on Romney’s growth potential. Another thing that Thompson has going for him is that he can make the argument that he’s the candidate most capable of unifying the party. There’s a lot of bad blood between the Romney and McCain camps, so should either drop out of the race, it’s hard to see their supporters jump to the other. Giuliani is unacceptable to a lot of social conservatives. Thompson may not be everybody’s first choice, but nobody seems to dislike him–at least not yet.
My issue with Thompson has nothing to do with him personally, but that he lacks executive experience and beyond a mostly conservative voting record, he really didn’t accomplish much in the Senate. After six years of a president who is a disengaged executive, I think it’s really important to have somebody who is detail oriented and interested in not only setting a policy, but making sure that it gets implemented properly. I’m not sure Thompson fits the bill. But I look forward to hearing what he has to say.