Thompson Gives Low-Key Iowa Kickoff
Fred Thompson likes to say he's not a traditional candidate. His kickoff speech was a fitting metaphor.
He didn't give it in his hometown, to throngs of adoring voters, like Barack Obama did when he announced before a crowd estimated to be 15,000 strong. And Thompson didn't pick a classic, Iowa backdrop - maybe cornfields? - to serve as a reminder of the heartland theme of the tour.
And he didn't deliver a typical, tightly-written, speech that arcs toward that moment when the crowd erupts in spontaneous cheering for the person they desperately want to carry them into the White House.
Instead, Thompson gave his maiden campaign speech in Room 205 of the Des Moines Convention Complex in front of a faux granite set and three blue video screens with his campaign motto splashed across it: Security. Unity. Prosperity. A couple hundred people were in the room. His aides insisted it was 400 - maybe they were counting the press. But it was his speech that was even more of a departure.
Written, aides said, by Thompson himself and contained in notecards that the candidate took with him to the podium, the speech was unnaturally quiet and reserved. There were a few moments of stirring language that gave rise to some applause. But for the most part, it was serious and thoughtful and - boring?
That's Fred, say campaign aides. He's not a podium-pounding, voice-rising, preacher-like speaker. In fact, they said afterward, the opening words of his speech promised "a conversation" with voters - and that's what he offered.
Conversations are fine. But opening a campaign with a conversation is an interesting choice that might not play well on television screens - something that could be a first for the "Law & Order" star.
"Fred is Fred," said syndicated columnist Bob Novak, a longtime Thompson friend, who contrasted Thompson's laid-back style with the other "rah-rah" candidates in the race. "It's going to be interesting to see how that plays.
Novak called former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney "Mr. Enthusiasm - every girl's dream: handsome and bright and exuberant." Thompson, he said on Washington Post radio Thursday, is, well, different. "I don't know how Fred's going to go over," he said.
--Michael D. Shear
Washington Post editors
September 6, 2007; 5:56 PM ET
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