Thompson (Finally) Makes It Official

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Fred Thompson's decision to skip Wednesday's New Hampshire debate invited ridicule from the Republican '08ers who view him as a lightweight.

But his thin public record is cold comfort to one Democratic powerbroker.

In fact, it has former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe downright nervous.

"There's not much there. That's what makes me nervous," said McAuliffe who remembers toiling for Jimmy Carter when he was trounced by Ronald Reagan.

"I'm never underestimating another B-Movie actor."

McAuliffe offered his assessment to ABC News just moments after Thompson entered the fray.

"I am certainly not disrespecting them," Thompson said of his '08 rivals while appearing on Jay Leno's show, "but it's a lot more difficult to get on the 'Tonight Show' than it is to get into a presidential debate."

With his Hollywood entrance into the race behind him, Thompson heads to Iowa today where he delivers 3:20 pm ET remarks in Des Moines followed by a 7:00 pm ET stop in Council Bluffs. The former Law & Order star then heads to New Hampshire for two days of campaigning followed by a day of stumping in South Carolina.

As for the debate itself, Mitt Romney took some heat for his plan to wiretap mosques, the illegal Guatemalans who once tended his lawn, and whether his commitment to Iraq is more durable than that of Hillary Clinton.

Romney was also questioned by a military dad for seeming to compare his son's work on the campaign to his own son's service.

"Romney not only failed to offer his apology but seemed indifferent to the questioner," writes Jennifer Rubin at Human Events. "We like smart presidents but we also like empathetic ones who relate to people as people and Romney needs to show he has a heart and not just a brain."

Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee turned in solid debate performances. But the press handed the most effusive praise to John McCain, the 2000 New Hampshire winner who has struggled of late.

McCain "stole the night," wrote the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.

Fox News saw "new life" injected into the Arizona senator's "suffering" campaign.

"Left for dead a month ago," McCain "roared back with a strong debate performance," wrote Dave Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

While Romney got a chance during the debate to explain his support for a two-step process on abortion (first, overturn Roe v. Wade so abortion decisions can go back to the states; then, work for a nationwide ban), his words still left the Wall Street Journal thinking that he opposes a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

"Mr. Romney was asked about his views on abortion, which have shifted over time against abortion rights. He gave a nuanced view, saying he was personally opposed to abortion but wouldn't seek to pass a constitutional amendment banning it."

Back in August, Romney endorsed a Human Life Amendment while appearing on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

More on the debate from ABC News' Karen Travers.

Thompson assessments:

In the view of the Wall Street Journal's ed board, Thompson's entry "probably steals more of Mr. Romney's thunder initially" since Romney -- unlike Giuliani -- is still introducing himself to a nationwide audience.

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