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Thompson, Running on the Revolution

When Fred Thompson hits the campaign trail in Iowa next week, he'll be offering a new theme for his candidacy: a return to the revolution. The newest GOP hopeful will emphasize his roots in the so-called Republican Revolution in 1994, when the party swept to power and took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades.

Thompson was in the class of 1994 that handed the Clintons a major defeat with a message of small government. His aides will also emphasize that the same year Thompson was calling for taking power away from the federal government and shifting it to states, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was endorsing New York's Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was moving left in his unsuccessful first foray into politics, when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate. "It's only a fair question to ask every candidate in the race what were you fighting for in 1994," said Todd Harris, Thompson's communications director. "This nomination will be won by the candidate who best articulates those conservative principles."

Harris said Thompson would not be borrowing from parts of the Republican agenda in 1994, such as eliminating the Department of Education and imposing term limits on members of Congress. And that will be the next question for the candidate, when he'll start laying out a specific policy vision. His first two weeks on the stump were marked by ducking answers to the sort of difficult questions he had promised his campaign would be about answering, such as how to reform Social Security and uncertainty about his views on issues that have dominated the headlines, such as the Terri Schiavo situation from two years ago and oil drilling in the Everglades in Florida.

By casting his candidacy in terms of fixing and shrinking the federal government, Thompson will join Arizona Senator John McCain and Romney, who are making similar pleas. "We've got to start acting like Republicans, not earmarking Republicans, not big government Republicans, but like Reagan Republicans and Teddy Roosevelt Republicans. They led us along the right course," Romney told a crowd in Michigan over the weekend.

--Perry Bacon Jr.

By Washington Post editors  |  September 27, 2007; 4:12 PM ET
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