Less than 10 minutes after Fred Thompson's announcement that he was dropping out of the Republican presidential race hit the wires, one of my good internet friends IM'd me.
FRIEND: Sorry to hear about Fred. Gd mn. (Good man)
ME: SUCKS THE BIG ONE
FRIEND: He wll b missed.
ME: IT REALLY, REALLY SUCKS
FRIEND: Kinda sucks 2bu right now, huh?
ME: YA. DOPE.
FRIEND: btw - given any thought to supporting Mitt?
There I was not ten minutes after my political world came crashing down, with my guts spilled out all over my keyboard and my emotions as raw as fresh hamburger, and one of my best friends was trying to recruit me for his guy, Mitt Romney.
If timing is everything in politics, my buddy violated the first rule by interrupting someone in the process of committing hara-kiri. He could have at least waited until the blood stopped flowing.
And it wasn't long after that conversation that the emails began to arrive, all weirdly similar. They would start out saying how sorry they were that Fred had dropped out, praising him for being a good guy and a true conservative, and then launch into a sales spiel about their particular candidate and why I should support him.
That was yesterday, and most of those emails were from people I knew. Today, I am getting emails from total strangers. I find most of them extremely annoying.
Here's an example:
You should DEFINITELY support John McCain now that Thompson has quit. McCain is the ONLY candidate that can defeat Hillary in nov all the polls PROVE it. He is a REAL american hero and will fight the terrorists wherever they are hiding.
He is the best candidtae for the repubs and every one KNOWS it.
McCain is the ONLY candidate left in the race who is a TRUE conservative. If you fredheads were smart you'd switch to McCain.
My reply was unprintable but inquired as to the gentleman's questionable ancestry. It also offered a couple of short but sweet recommendations -- in not very clinical terms, I'm afraid -- about where and how he could put his sentiments.
Being wooed in this manner would be flattering if the attentions were wanted. I guess now I know how Britney Spears feels. Well, I would if I were an ex-teenage pop star with mental health issues and an impulse control problem. Perhaps a better analogy would be woman being pursued by several suitors, who, while uninterested in spending the rest of her life with them, doesn't wish to hurt their feelings to the point that they would forego giving her the expensive presents and nights on the town she has become accustomed to.
In this vein, I have decided not to support any candidate in the primaries and to revisit the issue once the GOP chooses a nominee. Judging from what I've read from many of my fellow Fredheads, I am not alone in choosing this path -- although I'm certainly not in the majority.
For most who supported Thompson, there is that all-important second choice. And to analyze who will probably benefit the most from Thompson's pullout, you must look from where Thompson's major support was coming.
Exit polls in South Carolina revealed that Thompson did very well among those who identified themselves as "very conservative" and evangelical. This would seem to indicate that the bulk of Thompson supporters would gravitate toward former Arkansas governor and ordained Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee.
But Fred also scored well among those who thought that illegal immigration and terrorism were important issues. Looking at that evidence, Mitt Romney and John McCain would seem to benefit from Thompson's withdrawal.
In short, if a Fredhead is inclined to vote according to issues, McCain and Romney could benefit the most. If a Thompson supporter believes ideology or values should be the determining factor, Mike Huckabee could be the likely beneficiary.
My sense is that Mitt Romney will probably receive the biggest boost from Fred's withdrawal. Most Thompson supporters I know are livid with Mike Huckabee's underhanded tactics in South Carolina and would never vote for him for that reason. And while some of Fred's supporters will no doubt be attracted by the strong national security credentials exhibited by John McCain, the Arizona Senator's track record on illegal immigration would probably disqualify him from consideration by most.
To be honest, I see no reason any of Thompson's supporters would consider supporting Rudy Giuliani. But people vote for a candidate for many reasons so I'm sure Rudy will get a share of Fred's supporters.
But all of this leaves me cold. Fred Thompson was not the most exciting candidate and certainly not the best campaigner. It was his philosophy and ideas that captured me and earned my loyalty and support. It is very difficult to simply transfer your allegiance to someone who might represent only a pale echo of your candidate's qualities. So for that reason, I will sit and watch with interest as the drama of the campaign plays out to the end, hoping that the eventual nominee will be someone I can vote for without too much discomfort.
Rick Moran blogs at Right Wing Nuthouse.