Should Fred Thompson Declare Now Or Later?

In today's WSJ Online, Christopher Cooper makes a good pitch for Fred Thompson declaring his candidacy earlier rather than later.

Egged on by a campaign to draft him and buoyed by polls that suggest he would be a serious contender even though he hasn't declared, the conservative and blunt-spoken Mr. Thompson has said he is considering jumping in and may make a decision as early as next month. But in a presidential campaign that is likely to be the most expensive yet -- three candidates have already banked over $20 million in donations -- dithering would seem to be a liability.

It could be that Cooper is right, but it also appears that Thompson could end up raising as much money as the others have and in less time. He still has the 'pull' from his Senate days and he has a host of Reagan Republicans behind him.

Another group is looking at Thompson as the next Ronald Reagan and are urging him to run. These folks may not be all that far off.

Bill Hobbs has also been keeping up with All Things Fred Thompson. He also answers the question about whether Thompson needs to declare now in order to raise the funds he needs to compete against Romney, McCain, and Giuliani. The answer is No.

The WSJ's Chris Cooper focuses on how top Tennessee Republican fund-raiser Ted Welch has already committed to Mitt Romney, and how waiting to announce means Thompson is losing potential campaign staffers to other campaigns.

Let's deal with the latter first: Campaign talent is an abundant resource and Thompson's entry into the race may well help "clear the field" of some other, lesser-known and under-funded candidates, freeing up some of that campaign talent. Plus, if you're working for Huckabee or Brownback or Gilmore or the other Thompson and worried if your meager paycheck is all that assured, and Thompson jumps into the race, might you be tempted to jump? Of course. Provided Thompson has money to go with his momentum.

And that's where the Ted Welch factor comes into play. Welch is a superstar fund-raiser - he helped Romney raise $6.5 million in one day a few months ago - and I have no doubt Thompson would love to have Welch in his corner. For that matter, Welch would love to be working for Thompson - he told The Tennessean newspaper repeatedly that if Romney drops out, he'll back Fred, a not-so-subtle way of telling his Rolodex full of wealthy contacts that they have his blessing to help Thompson.

And with Thompson out-polling the Six-Million-Dollar Mitt, don't think for a minute that Welch wouldn't love to engineer a deal in which Romney drops out in order to run as Fred's running mate. That way Welch could back horse he prefers, and still keep his commitment to Romney.

There are others that also believe that Thompson could easily raise the finds he needs even if he declares his candidacy some time later, such is the power of the Internet.

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