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Fred Thompson: Man About Town

That Fred Thompson really gets around!

After having lunch Monday at the Mayflower hotel restaurant with Republican Party master strategist Ed Gillespie, the actor and former Tennessee senator met for three hours that day at the same location with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also of Tennessee.

The back-to-back meetings underscore just how serious Thompson is about mulling a run for the presidency. And who wouldn't run after managing to place third among GOP presidential candidates without even lifting a finger? Click here to see the new USA Today/Gallup poll, which has Thompson - an undeclared potential candidate - ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and others, trailing only former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Eric Ueland, a former top aide to Frist when he was Senate majority leader, confirmed that Thompson sought Frist's guidance this week.

"Sen. Frist has been talking to lots of old friends whenever he is in town, including Sen. Thompson, whose common-sense conservative credentials are part of the national conversation Republicans are having now about the 2008 race as they examine the field and the positions of various folks ready to carry the party's banner forward to keep taxes low, bring spending under control, see continued economic growth and new jobs created, respect life and succeed in the war on terror."

A Frist confidant familiar with the meeting between Thompson and Frist said he thought Thompson was "deadly serious" about learning as much as he could from Frist, who had considered a run for president himself and who, as the former top Republican in the Senate, is a proven fundraiser and has a Rolodex full of donors' names.

The source, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing sensitive political matters, said the two former Volunteer State senators had a "good conversation" and now consider themselves "friends," despite some tension in the past when they served together in the Senate, where Thompson, a recognizable face from television and movies, naturally got more media attention that Frist, a no-name heart surgeon.

A close Thompson confidant, meanwhile, told The Sleuth that Thompson has "the luxury of sitting back and waiting" before jumping in the '08 waters. And while the former senator has been "bombarded" with requests to appear on TV shows to discuss his potential candidacy, the source said, he's going to "wait and see how things develop."

Former Tennessee GOP Sen. Howard Baker, who is urging Thompson to run, feels that with no clear frontrunner in the GOP primary field, and with Thompson's name and face recognition, he would be a viable contender, according to the Thompson confidant.

"But if we're wrong and McCain or Guiliani jumps ahead and is really rolling along, [Thompson] probably won't get in at all," the source said.

Michael Madigan , a partner at the law firm Akin Gump who served as chief counsel to Thompson in the Senate, said he didn't know about Thompson's meeting with Frist and couldn't comment on if or when Thompson might enter the presidential race.

He did, however, say that Thompson is "giving thoughtful and serious consideration" to running and that "Fred is unique in that he has both the leadership and charisma to inspire people and the intellectual goods to back it up."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  March 28, 2007; 8:37 AM ET
 
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