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The Shadow Candidates

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But if the results of the first round of the money primary represent a stop sign for Gore, for Thompson they’re a bright green light, flashing go-go-go. Among the three top-tier GOP candidates, only Romney’s $21 million fund-raising total was impressive in the least—and his obvious flaws as a candidate and his failure to catch fire with voters so far are impossible to overlook. (Indeed, whereas Romney once seemed to me likely to be the Pete Wilson of 2008, he now seems poised to become this year’s incarnation of Phil Gramm.) What the Republican first-quarter numbers reflect is a profoundly unsettled field—and a party in which many big-dollar donors are still holding back, perhaps in the hope that a new, fresh face will capture their attention.

Will Thompson try to do so? We’ll know soon enough—likely in the next few weeks. Just recently, though, Thompson returned to Fox News to announce that he had suffered from lymphoma, a condition that he’d kept secret for more than two years. (The cancer is now in remission.) Among insiders, the immediate conclusion was that the disclosure was the clearest indication yet that Thompson will jump in the race. The logic made sense: Why would Thompson go public now, if he planned to remain in private life? But this was still guesswork. Then, last week, his friend and adviser, former senator Bill Frist, told the Weekly Standard, “We thought we had to get it out early, in the sense that he’s going to be announcing.”

Just a slip of the tongue? You never know. But don’t be surprised if you soon start seeing that red pickup truck in Iowa.

E-mail: jheilemann@gmail.com.


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