Analysis: Has Fred Thompson Waited Too Long?

Expectations high for Sen. Fred Thompson, who is jumping into '08 race on Sept.6

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:11 AM

Aug. 30, 2007 — -- He was primed to be the summer's big blockbuster and the script was written in advance: A dispirited party finds its great hope in a swashbuckling Southern senator, riding to the rescue to save Republicans from themselves.

But since the heady days of late spring, when the Fred Thompson fever seemed to infect the GOP, Thompson's pre-campaign has been more "Gigli" than "Gone With the Wind."

He's posted lackluster fundraising numbers. He's faced repeated questions about his lobbying career, his years in politics, as well as his position on abortion.

His political speeches have been received coolly, with few grand pronouncements or policy proposals that have lived up to his hype. An announcement rumored for June was pushed back to July, and finally to early September.

As he waited, his potential supporters have grown restless, giving other candidates room to claim the conservative mantle. And, most significantly, his noncampaign has churned through staff like so many extras; Thompson is already on his third spokesman, even though he's had nothing to announce.

Now, with a formal announcement set for Sept. 6, the question for former Tennessee Sen. Thompson looms: Will this ex-movie star see his pilot picked up? Or has the Republican Party changed the channel?

"He's clearly lost much of the momentum that was there in early summer," said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who is not aligned with any of the presidential campaigns. "The cost of all this waiting is a significant decrease in buzz. The question is whether he can regain his momentum in September."

Thompson advisers now say Thompson will officially declare his intention to seek the White House on Sept.6, and follow that with a tour of early primary voting states. One adviser said he wanted to formally announce his candidacy after the Sept. 5 Republican debate in New Hampshire, but before Sept. 11, when political news will be dominated by the anniversary of the terror attacks and congressional testimony on Iraq.