THE NAME'S CHAUNCEY GARDINER, Y'ALL
It's looking really bad for Fred Thompson these days -- right? Dick Morris says he's "going nowhere fast," while Roger Simon of the Politico lists the things Thompson has to do to exceed expectations today in his first debate:
All he has to do is not fall asleep.
All he has to do is not throw up.
All he has to do is not drool.
Has there ever been a major presidential candidate with lower expectations on the eve of his first debate than Fred Thompson? ...
So, er, why is Thompson the only candidate within shouting distance of Mitt Romney in Iowa, according to the latest Iowa Poll? Why does Gallup still have him a solid second to Giuliani nationwide, his polls numbers essentially unaffected by the recent torrent of bad press? Why does a new North Carolina poll show him with a double-digit lead over every GOP competitor?
People keep expecting Thompson's ineptitude to catch up with him, the same way people keep expecting Giuliani's deviations from Christian-right litmus tests to catch up with him. Everyone assumes that, if these two guys are still doing well, it's only because Republican voters don't yet know what we know about them.
Me, I wonder if Thompson is actually going to benefit from the pundits' perception that he's a lazy dumbass -- or if he's benefiting already. I look at the last two two-term Republican presidents, both of them all but worshipped by the GOP base (albeit not enduringly in George W. Bush's case), and it's obvious that the last thing that's going to make Republican voters sour on a guy is the perception that he's an ill-informed yokel. Thompson might just have Beltway journalists exactly where he wants them.