INCOMPETENT LIKE A FOX?
At first, I really thought the mainstream media elite would embrace Fred Thompson -- after all, he's been rubbing elbows with the Beltway permanent government on and off for decades, and he seems as if he might have enough star power to keep the White House out of the hands of the dirty-hippie Democrats.
And for a while he did seem to be finding favor with the media: Chris Matthews and others praised his looks and his smell, while Sally Quinn concocted a bizarre fantasy in which he saved the Bush presidency and the Republican Party by taking over the vice presidency from Dick Cheney.
But now the mainstream press seems to be souring on Thompson. His staffing troubles and fund-raising woes have been highlighted. He's regularly accused of being lazy, gaffe-prone, and unprepared. George Will doesn't like him, and now, we learn, neither does Dick Morris:
...he's no Ronald Reagan and he's never going to be viable.
...In his first week of campaigning, Thompson has shown that he has neither the substance nor the experience that is essential for a serious presidential candidate. One wonders what makes him -- and his supporters -- think that he is, in any way, up to the job....
So, er, this bad press is really hurting him, right?
Wrong. In the Rasmussen tracking poll, he was 1 point behind Rudy Giuliani on September 5, the day he announced his candidacy. Eleven days later, he was 10 points ahead of Rudy.
Well, it may be -- I'm not sure how much the public is aware of the bad press. And the Rasmussen poll may be anomalously pro-Thompson.
But bad press really could be the best thing that ever happened to Thompson -- especially bad press that accuses him of being lazy and ill-informed. Remember Reagan? Remember W? Republican voters love gregarious, popular guys who are regarded as lazy and ill-informed by prominent journalists.
For Republicans, being a grown-up Big Man on Campus who doesn't seem to know what the hell he's talking about is a mark of authenticity, of genuineness. For Thompson, seeming like a well-liked screw-up is the best possible way to make sure people never, ever think of him as the bicoastal lawyer/lobbyist he is.
So if I were Thompson, I'd be begging reporters and pundits in New York and D.C. to write sneering, contemptuous stories. I'd have aides blast-faxing accounts of gaffes to the press. I'd seriously consider making mistakes deliberately -- and then follow them up with corny/folksy quips about Hugo Chavez or the Iranians.
It really could be a winning formula.