After all the coy flirting, Fred Thompson finally showed up for his first date with voters in Iowa yesterday and now we all can look for signs of whether he was right on time or a couple of months too late to the party.
On the same day that the NFL season finally started, after weeks of meaningless exhibition contests, Thompson acknowledged that his pre-season also was over and it was time to get moving on his pitch to woo conservative voters to make him the Republican nominee.
In an exclusive interview with Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer this morning, Thompson admitted some of the zingers lobbed at him from his Republican rivals in Wednesday night's debate were funny, but he dismissed the notion that he is too lazy to withstand the rigors of the campaign trail.
"That's a question that will be resolved on the campaign trail. I don't see any need to address that," Thompson said.
Thomson defended his wife Jeri's role in his campaign and said there is nothing he can do if people point fingers at her instead of him for campaign shake-ups or missteps.
"I don't have any further need for explanation for anything that she's done. Thank goodness she's there," Thompson said.
Sawyer asked Thompson about his health, something not mentioned in this morning's newspaper coverage of the campaign's kick-off, though the Washington Post ed board seems to get its wish granted for regular medical updates per Thompson in his GMA interview.
Thompson, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2004 and is currently in remission, said health is always an issue but if he thought he had any problems, he wouldn't be running.
(We realize part of Thompson's appeal is his easy-going drawl but for morning television, it may not hurt to inject a little pep and caffeine into the conversation.)
Thompson Day One offered a glimpse at how the campaign will make the case that their guy is the one true conservative in the race. But his speeches focused on large themes of national security and small government without revealing what exactly Thompson will do if he moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the Boston Globe, Michael Kranish called the rollout a "carefully choreographed combination of Hollywood theatrics and Ronald Reagan themes."
The Hollywood theatrics included a video, "The Hunt for Red November," which showcased highlights from Thompson's personal and professional life. The video's title, referring to the goal of turning states Republican red on Election Day, came on-screen after photos of Democratic candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.
ABC News' Christine Byun reports that the reference to Thompson's acting career – "The Hunt for Red October" is one of his best-known movie roles – was not lost on the mostly-older crowd who came out to support Thompson in Des Moines.
The Thompson campaign sees an opening in the Republican race for a candidate who can woo conservative voters who are not enthusiastic about the rest of the field.
In the New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Jo Becker look at how lingering questions of his rivals ideological credentials may allow Thompson to slip through that opening by positioning himself as "ideological and stylistic heir" to Ronald Reagan.
Tom Beaumont writes that Thompson's "plain-spoken style and on-screen image as a no-nonsense leader has given some Republican activists hope that he can ignite a party base that some observers in Iowa say is dispirited."
The Thompson campaign seems to see itself as the white knight riding into Iowa to appeal voters who are holding out for "the one." A senior Thompson adviser tells the Washington Post's Michael Shear that their message to conservative voters who have been holding their noses so far is "You can breath easier now."
(Shear also reports that the campaign has raised roughly $300,000 since Thompson made his announcement on "The Tonight Show" on Wednesday night.)
He painted himself as a reformer, Washington outsider and watchdog, a true conservative with small-town values. But while delivering catchy phrases that drew easy applause, he offered no details about how a Thompson administration would seek to achieve its goals.
The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman looks at three reasons the Thompson campaign can feel confident that their guy can be "the one," a serious contender for the Republican nomination:
But not so fast, says Ralph Reed – conservative voters are not going to just throw themselves at Thompson's feet en masse simply because he showed up, per the Boston Globe's Brian Mooney that
"'With any constituency this large and diverse and with so many candidates competing for their affection, it's unlikely that they will be corralled by a single candidate, and with a late entry it's going to be hard to get all these people,' Reed said."
Instead of a rollout in his home state of Tennessee where he would certainly draw large enthusiastic crowds, Thompson got right down to business to try and make up for lost time in Iowa.
But in a state that has seen over a dozen candidates consistently pass through since the beginning of the year, the welcome for the former senator-turned actor may have been just lukewarm.
Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times deemed the crowd in Des Moines "relatively thin for the national launch of a celebrity's bid for the White House."
Susan Page concurs in the USA Today, writing that the 250 or so Iowa voters on hand for Thompson's first event "failed to fill the room" and their reaction to the remarks was "friendly but not frenzied."
The Washington Post editorial board seems open to Thompson's candidacy but highlights something that ABC News' Diane Sawyer pressed the 65-year-old candidate on this morning – his health history.
The editorial board says that voters deserve up-to-date health info on Thompson, as they do for all over the other candidates running for president.
More from the trail with ABC News' Jake Tapper.
In a speech in New York City, John Edwards will key off of the disrupted German terrorist plot and get a news peg from the new Osama bin Laden tape as he outlines what aides are billing as the modern-day equivalent of NATO for terrorism - the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO). Edwards will be introduced by 9-11 widow and activist Kristen Breitweiser at Pace University in Lower Manhattan.
As the sixth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks approaches next week, Edwards will say today "There is now only one key question we must ask ourselves: are we any closer to getting rid of terrorism than we were six years ago? And the terrible answer is no, we're further away. Today, terrorism is worse in Iraq, and it's worse around the world."
Keep your ears open for reaction from the presidential candidates to the bin Laden tape and how they frame that in the larger issue of terrorism and national security.
Add another twist to the story of Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu.
On the day he was scheduled to appear in the San Mateo County Superior Court, Hsu fell ill on an eastbound Amtrak train and was taken to a Grand Junction, Colo. Hospital where he was arrested by the FBI on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk and John Solomon scrounge for elusive facts to take a look at how Hsu the apparel manufacturer became Hsu the big-time Democratic fundraiser.
Barack Obama is about to become the latest addition to that elite list of "Oprah's Favorite Things" but will that endorsement be enough to cut into Hillary Clinton's support from women?
Carla Marinucci takes a look at Obama's California weekend and his effort to show women that he, not Clinton, is the best candidate in the field to represent women's issues and interest in the White House.
In the New York Times, Michael Luo curtain raises Mitt Romney's proposal to eliminate taxes on most investment earrings for families making under $200,000 year. Romney will lay out the proposal on the campaign trail in New Hampshire today. Spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told Luo that Romney's plan would eliminate taxes on interest earnings, capital gains and dividend income for families under that income threshold.
Aqui no se habla espanol:
The Democratic field gathers in Miami on Sunday for a first-of-its-kind debate on Univision, the Spanish-language television network and the Washington Post's Marcela Sanchez writes that the debate will go beyond immigration and focus on key issues for Hispanic voters – education, health care and U.S. relations with Latin America.
ABC News' Jennifer Parker previews the Univision debate and the efforts by the Democratic candidates to woo the nation's rapidly growing Hipsanic population.
"However, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the only Hispanic presidential candidate, has been asked to refrain from showing off his fluent Spanish-speaking skills. Questions will be asked and answered in English, and then translated into Spanish for the network's TV, radio and online platforms," Parker notes.
"Everyone says they are like Reagan. So far, the only way I've seen that Thompson is like Reagan is that he did some acting." -- Martin Anderson, longtime associate and Reagan biographer