There’s nothing like an old-fashioned political rally to remind me how much I dislike this part of politics. His speech alone was half an hour. We were handled pretty aggressively. It was cold. (I wore the wrong shoes. I confess I don’t get to blame that one on the candidate.)
But what I took away from the hour and a half event was a really important observation: Tommy is in it to win it.
Exquisitely managed campaign* **
I went to a couple of presidential rallies in 2008 that didn’t rise to that level of gathering. Supporters were met at the door with their name on a checklist or a place to leave contact information. The plant was rigged with a semi for a platform in front of a steel arch. Someone spent the rally at the top of a platform shining a spotlight on the candidate.
The introductions were made at a measured pace before Tommy spoke. When he came to the stage, he also paced his first acknowledgments. I watched Tommy watch the press, and when he saw the reporter mount his portable stool and the light from the camera glow, he made his announcement. On cue the crowd cheered. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen at a campaign rally. Thompson knows his stuff and I am sure looked good on camera.
Following his (extended) speech, Thompson moved through the crowd. A small group of young handlers held signs in tight formation around him. (I’m going to catch grief for this but I’m going to say it anyway.) A couple of black women were purposely squeezed into the handler group. This photo from Thompson’s Facebook page, while not staged, happened on purpose.
(I am so sorry I had to upload the photo to my server. Facebook can be a little goofy about using embedded code on their photos. If it’s a problem for the campaign, someone let me know and I’ll find a work around.)
*For all the exactness of the rally, I was surprised to learn my name wasn’t on a list at all. A guy from Persuasion Partners called a couple of days ago to “hope I would attend.” I was not forced, however, to leave my contact information, so I didn’t. I’m already receiving all of the campaign’s press releases, so I figured it wasn’t too rude.
So what job does he want?
Part of that speech (did I mention it was too long?) left me seriously tangled. At one point I remember thinking, “This guy would make a good governor.” Yes, to an extent all the Republican speeches are going to sound the same, but it’s one of my pet peeves that you speak to the position you hope to attain. Tommy spoke to his goal of being governor, except for the one point where he hoped to overturn Obamacare.
The other thing that I must admit affected me was when he waxed poetically on his terms as governor. Those were very good years for my family as the children were home and the nation’s economy was thriving. Then I heard the phrase “lowered the tax rate” and it ticked me off. Taxes are such a pliable talking point. Of course you can lower the tax rate when business is booming and property valuations are skyrocketing. And yes, I’d argue you can even say you “cut taxes” when you lowered the tax rate. For me that phrase is a reason to want to look at the bigger pictures. Did he reduce spending? The total budget? Or did he grow government because there was money to sustain the growth.
He wrapped up with a bit of a whine about his beautiful record already being distorted. Man up Tommy! You get to run on your whole record as a career politician. You get to own a choo choo and your high-five for Obamacare and your stem cell ambivalence. Your lobbying. You know it. That’s the way this game is played.
In it to win it.
I have in my possession an e-mail from someone who knows someone who knows someone who works for one of the big news groups that says there’s a pool as to when Thompson drops out of the race. My opinion was requested as to whether or not Memorial Day was too late a choice. I replied I thought Thompson would go out the day he lost the primary. Yesterday’s announcement does not look like a waffling candidate.
It’s my personal opinion that Fitzgerald will be out before he even gets started. The race is going to be too expensive, and he’s not well enough known to counter Thompson’s presence even if that presence isn’t always satisfying to conservative Republicans. And though I lean Mark Neumann for this race, Neumann needs to hire the people to get into the public relations game Thompson will create. Neumann may be conservative enough, but he has a lot to learn about conveying his message and vitality. Thompson looks fifteen years Neumann’s junior sometimes instead of the reverse.
In short, it could be hard to beat the ever-dynamic Tommy Thompson.