The Presidential Debates and Senator Thompson

The 2008 race for the Presidency started early, and so far the debates have not done too much. So many candidates, so much clatter, so little distinction.

But today’s debate had something riding on it – would Senator Fred Thompson’s
late and highly anticipated entry in the race create a buzz and gain immediate support. So far – no. Typical of the early reaction is one high level comment that he “has no passion, no zeal and no apparent ‘want-to’…”

So today’s debate in Michigan is important to Thompson, if not so much the others. Did he do it – overcome the ennui that his campaign has mustered so far. Not by a long shot – and it’s both in his content and behavior. Look at the news clips and this clip and you’ll see him unsure in what he says, as if he DID retire a few years ago and was not yet back on top of it.


But the behavior is the tip-off for confidence and believability. Senator Thompson looks grim – just his face alone is reflective of pessimism not enthusiasm. That can work for the younger Thompson – the actor in “Law And Order” when he can be ‘crusty.’ But he’s older now, and needs to be a leader, not an actor. Even though he has Bill Clinton’s lip lick, he is tentative, and not inspiring.

Some say he is laconic, but he appeared uncomfortable, as shown by continuous head nodding and his tentative ‘ums’ and ‘ahs.’ He even lost his way. That was very surprising, as were the lack of focus, conviction and directness shown in his eyes darting about. Compare him in this clip with Mitt Romney – particularly with voice and eyes.

There is a long way to go in this race, but I’ll predict that the ultimate winner won’t be Senator Thompson – since communications is such a key part of leadership.

And based on communications, the handicappers would have to favor the one who got the biggest laugh, smooth Mitt Romney, (though he would be a bit better off if he messed his hair up now and then.) Mayor Rudy Guilani is convicting, but perhaps there’s a dark horse in Governor Mike Huckabee.