Former Sen. Fred Thompson is waiting for his TV schedule to match his political timeline before declaring his presidential candidacy -- but he's not exactly staying quiet in the meantime.
Though still under contract with "Law & Order" through the end of May, Thompson is peppering the blogosphere with commentary, in addition to his regular ABC Radio dispatches.
Thompson's latest online effort blurs the line between Thompson the actor and Thompson the politician.
In a video clip filmed for Internet distribution, Thompson sucks on an unlit cigar while shrugging off filmmaker Michael Moore's recent debate challenge -- and gets in a shot at the liberal icon by reminding him that "your buddy Castro" once put a documentary filmmaker he didn't like in a mental institution.
"A mental institution, Michael, might be something you ought to think about," Thompson says.
He then places the cigar back in his mouth and spins his chair back toward his desk, looking very much like District Attorney Arthur Branch, his "Law & Order" character.
Thompson's associates said the video and his frequent blogging are part of a strategy to communicate directly with voters -- and to build anticipation over his possible candidacy to a fever pitch among Republican activists.
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said Thompson is displaying the instincts and humor he's prepared to bring to a presidential candidacy.
His new video has bloggers and activists buzzing -- and has members of Congress eagerly anticipating more, said Wamp, one of Thompson's biggest boosters in Congress.
"He's lighting the sky up with fireworks, and he's not even in the race," Wamp said. "You don't have to run from debate to debate with 10 other people. He can do it a different way and gain traction. People are saying, 'Man, that guy's got guts.'"
Wamp said he sees Thompson "preparing for the month of June" to take formal steps toward announcing a candidacy.
His contract with "Law & Order" has held him back from organizing a presidential campaign, Wamp said, but with that contract not being renewed by NBC, he'll be free to raise money and start building a team next month.
Thompson advisers said he's contemplating a timeframe that would have him announce as early as June but as late as August.
He'll have to scramble to catch up to the announced candidates in fundraising and on-the-ground organizing in early-voting states, though many Republicans are disaffected with the current crop of candidates and want a solid conservative to enter the race.
If he does run, he'll have to battle a reputation earned in the Senate as a sometimes indifferent worker, in what's sure to be an intense and grueling campaign.
Mark Corallo, a Thompson spokesman, said the former senator understands the power of "new media," and is a big reader of blogs.
Without the participation of advisers, he has been blogging regularly on his own site, ABC Radio's "The Fred Thompson Report" and has offered occasional commentary to other popular conservative sites, including www.redstate.org.
"He understands that you can reach an enormous audience and engage in a real conversation instead of talking at people," Corallo said. "He has said several times, he will not run a conventional campaign. This is certainly a window into how he would do it, if he does do it."