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 Takes On Moore
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.
Could 2008 Turn Into the Fred Thompson Show?
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.
Thompson Taps 'New Media' for Early Buzz
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."
His entries range from entirely topical to casual and ruminative -- though Thompson is consistently conservative.
After the Virginia Tech shootings, he criticized the school for having a "gun-free zone" policy.
In his latest blog entry -- posted Wednesday -- he bemoaned the disappearance of military history courses from most colleges, while poking fun at Vanderbilt University's courses on "third-wave feminism" and "colonial governmentality."
And he has made the most of a running feud with Moore, who is loathed in conservative circles for his liberal documentaries.
For Moore's latest film, the soon-to-be-released "Sicko," the filmmaker traveled to Cuba following ground zero workers who went in search of affordable health care.
Thompson blasted Moore for buying into the "myth of Cuban health care," and Moore criticized Thompson's stated penchant for Cuban cigars.
TV Guide or the Campaign Trail
For now, Thompson's real life and screen life will continue to intersect.
He's still appearing on "Law & Order," though his episodes will have to move to cable if he becomes a candidate, because of "equal time" concerns regarding the Republican candidates.
He has two political speeches on his schedule in the coming days -- this Sunday in Chicago, and next Thursday in Connecticut.
And May 27, his latest acting gig will hit the small screen: the HBO movie "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," where Thompson portrays President Ulysses S. Grant.