Memo Shows Thompson Aides
Had Eye to Future in 1999
You have to take advice from all sorts of people when you're running for president -- even from yourself.
In an internal staff memo dated Sept. 7, of 1999, Fred Thompson's advisers at the time critiqued a New Hampshire campaign swing by then-presidential candidate John McCain. In the two-page memo is advice for McCain that Thompson himself might want to follow as he launches his presidential bid tonight.
It also gives a glimpse -- if a dated one -- of how Thompson might campaign as he tours the country, beginning with an extended tour of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida during the next two weeks.
In 1999, Thompson, then a senator and colleague of McCain's, had just returned from campaigning in New Hampshire with his friend. The memo, written by Bob Davis, the head of his Nashville office, concludes the trip was a success for both McCain and Thompson. "Folks in New Hampshire recognized FDT at every stop and without a doubt FDT gives McCain's campaign added credibility with his support and endorsement," Davis wrote, using the shorthand for Fred Dalton Thompson. And Davis wasn't done touting the assets his man brought to McCain's cause. "I believe FDT keeps McCain loose, relaxed. If I were McCain's campaign leadership, I would have FDT around as much as possible."
"It also gave FDT a chance to rub elbows with the national media like CNN, US News & World Reports, Time, etc. in a campaign type setting," Davis wrote in the memo, part of Thompson's senate archives at the University of Tennessee. But he goes on to note several things that could have been improved.
"At almost every stop, the campaign was scheduled to stay for over an hour," the memo, from Davis states. "Our rule of 45 minutes an event is perfect and McCain's people should consider shortening their events."
McCain is, of course, a candidate again. But his campaign hias sputtered during the past two months, hammered by financial and staff problems as well as the senator's position on immigration and his controversial defense of the war in Iraq.
In 2000, as now, McCain famously rejected being "handled" by campaign operatives. But Thompson's in 1999 concluded that the campaign might have been smarter to "take care" of McCain more often when he's out in the public.
"They need to do a better job taking care of McCain," the memo states. "Close doors for him when he's speaking and the crowd is loud in the hall. Turn off music, fans, etc. when he's speaking. At one point, McCain had to ask 'how are we doing on time?' which was a clue to get him the hell out of the event. Get drinks for him after he speaks."
Davis goes on to admit that "these are little things that may seem petty," but adds that they can "change the candidate's whole demeanor for the rest of the day and most importantly make him look better to the voters."
Davis also recommended that "on any kind of a bus tour, an advance team should run ahead of the bus, case the crowd, stir up one if needed, check the sound system, media, etc."
That's timely advice, since Thompson's tour of the early primary states will be via bus, and his showing during the first couple of weeks will be critical as he enters the 2008 campaign later than any other candidate.
The memo was sent to Powell Moore, Thompson's second Chief of Staff and copied to his secretary, his scheduler, his press secretary and his political director.
Some of those people are back with Thompson now, according to a source close to the campaign, helping him craft a strategy that wins him the presidential nomination and, ultimately, the White House.
So, count on someone getting Thompson a bottle of water after he finishes speaking. Maybe it will guarantee he'll be in a good mood.
--Michael D. Shear
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