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."