CELEBRATION, Fla., Oct. 25, 2007 — -- At Water Tower Florists in Celebration, Fla., former Tennessee Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson has come to woo women voters.
Thompson needs to win the support of Florida Republican women in order to win this Southern state that is key to his strategy. The setting conjures memories of his nearly 20-year bachelorhood between his two marriages when he had a reputation as a ladies man.
His smooth ways were on display at Water Tower Florists — the dapper dress, the low, reassuring slow-jams voice full of homespun common sense.
In contrast to some of his more aggressive and energetic competitors for the Republican presidential nomination, Thompson has a style that is decidedly low key. He is also, perhaps unfairly, competing with the commanding presence he has projected on the big and small screens for decades as an actor in "Die Hard 2," "In the Line of Fire" and on "Law & Order." And as Ronald Reagan learned before him, reality is a far cry from the tightly scripted drama of his movies and TV shows.
His relaxed manner coupled with his relatively late entry into the race, his modest fundraising and his less-than-frenetic schedule have some observers wondering whether he's lazy or even worse — ambivalent about being president. Thompson says that's all nonsense.
"I'm kind of a laid-back guy. … If people think I'm too laid back or not ambitious enough, that's their prerogative. I'm gonna be me, and that's what they get," Thompson told the gathering at the flower shop.
ABC News joined Thompson, sometimes behind the scenes, for his recent swing through Florida. He brushed off suggestions that the roughly two public events he did a day was evidence he wasn't fully engaged.
Thompson explained to this reporter that his campaign has a certain rhythm and reason to it. "A campaign is a long process and it involves many things. I've even done a couple of fundraisers you weren't invited to. I don't want to hurt your feelings," he said with a smile.
Thompson says the chattering classes are missing what the voters will ultimately see — that not being consumed with winning empowers him to be a better politician.
"If I can't tell the truth, then it's not worth running for president," he told the dozen women at Water Tower Florists. "It's a risk, but it's a risk I'm willing to take, because I have the freedom. And if the people aren't ready for that, they can tell me. But I think they are. I think the people are better than the politicians give them credit for," he said.
That's the key to his pitch — he's doing this on his own terms -— and whether the press buys it or not, he's clearly hoping it resonates with voters.