John and Fred, political pals

It was August 18, 1999.  Then-Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson endorsed fellow Senator John McCain’s bid for the Republican Party’s 2000 presidential nomination.  As Hillary Clinton often suggests, let’s rewind back to the last century to see what Thompson had to say about McCain.

"When it comes to personal courage and integrity and the courage to do what he thinks is right, regardless of whether or not it’s particularly popular at the moment, John McCain has shown characteristics of leadership like no one else I’ve ever seen," Thompson said at a press conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Back in the day, both Thompson and McCain had been on the same side in the senate fight over campaign finance reform (McCain/Feingold).  Thompson had been backing Lamar Alexander’s bid for the White House, but when Alexander dropped out after the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll Thompson quickly jumped behind McCain.  (How quickly?  The Straw Poll was on Saturday, August 14.  Alexander dropped out on Monday.  Thompson endorsed McCain two days later.)

Thompson served as one of McCain’s national chairman in that 2000 race.  When McCain launched the 2.0 version of his 1999-2000 campaign earlier this year, it was widely expected that Thompson would serve in a similar role this time around. 

Now, with Thompson’s apparent intention to run for president himself in 2008 and McCain’s woes, there’s a scenario that is being talked about as political reporters play the "What happens to McCain?" parlor game. It involves McCain dropping out and immediately throwing his support behind Thompson.

For that to happen, Thompson would have to actually jump in the race first.  As for timing, wouldn’t it be interesting if Thompson defies the conventional wisdom of the day, jumps in the race right before the straw poll and McCain drops out to endorse Thompson? That would certainly steal attention away from the Ames straw poll. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.