Thompson Unveils Ad Ahead of Thursday Kickoff
Fred Thompson's image will begin appearing on the small screen today, not as District Attorney Arthur Branch, but as an official candidate for president.
In a 30-second campaign commercial sent to networks for broadcast at midnight, Thompson warns that "On the next President's watch, our country will make decisions that will affect our lives and our families far into the future. We can't allow ourselves to become a weaker, less prosperous and more divided nation."
Thompson concludes the ad with an invitation to visit his new campaign website, Fred08.com, on Thursday to watch a 15-minute video in which he officially announces his campaign for the White House. But if there is any doubt, an announcer then comes on, saying: "Fred Thompson, Republican for President."
The ad will air throughout the day today and during the New Hampshire Republican presidential debate on Fox tonight. Following the debate -- which Thompson is skipping -- he will appear on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show."
The idea, advisers say, is to create a national buzz about Thompson's official entry into the race and drive traffic to the new website on Thursday. The 15-minute video will be available on the website at 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning; advisers hope it steals the show the next morning on talk shows and cable news networks.
"The goal between now and the minute Senator Thompson is on Jay Leno is to drive as many people as we can to our website in anticipation of the launch video," said Communications Director Todd Harris.
The video, aides say, is part bio-pic, part conservative motivational film aimed at making the case that Thompson -- who was swept into office in 1994 as part of the conservative revolt that year -- has been fighting in the trenches for Republicans for decades.
The not-so-subtle dig: that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani (who was endorsing Democratic governor Mario Cuomo that year) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (who was trying to run to the left of Sen. Edward Kennedy) are Johnny-come-Latelys.
"Success for us will be if we are able to commuicate Senator Thompson's mainsteam, conservative message to a Republican electorate that, frankly, until now, has been hungry for a new voice," Harris said.
On the stump, Thompson will tell audiences that his philosophical awakening dates to his reading of Barry Goldwater's book, "A Conscience of a Conservative" in the 1960s. "It compelled him to found the first Young Republicans chapter ever in Laurenceburg, Tennessee," Harris said.
Thompson's rivals have already tried to attack his conservative credentials by questioning his commitment to the anti-abortion movement and his sponsorship of campaign finance reforms that are anathema to many in the party.
But many of those stories emerged during the summer, when few voters are paying attention to presidential politics. And the critiques have so far failed to overwhelm Thompson's unique Hollywood-Washington persona.
His advisers hope that they can cement the narrative about Thompson's credentials before the attacks ramp up this fall. Said Harris: "There's no question that we need to have a good announcement tour."
--Michael D. Shear
The script of the ad, titled "Debate"
FDT: I'm Fred Thompson and I approve this message. On the next President's watch, our country will make decisions that will affect our lives and our families far into the future. We can't allow ourselves to become a weaker, less prosperous and more divided nation. Today, as before, the fate of millions across the world depends on the unity and resolve of the American people. I talk about this tomorrow on Fred08.com, I invite you to take a look and join us.
ANNCR: Fred Thompson, Republican for President.
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