September 6, 2007

fred Tonight, Republican all-but-announced presidential candidate, “Law and Order” actor, and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson employed a couple of unusual approaches to announcing his candidacy for President – in a 15-minute webcast he aired at midnight EDT, and while chatting with Jay Leno on a taped broadcast of NBC’s “Tonight Show.” Perhaps understandably, his strategy is raising eyebrows:

Thompson will make his candidacy official in a 15-minute Webcast set to air at midnight, around the same time that he’ll be seen on the East Coast chatting with Jay Leno on a taped broadcast of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

He’ll call attention to his bid hours earlier with a 30-second ad during the eight-man GOP debate in New Hampshire that he’s skipping.

“On the next president’s watch, our country will make decisions that will affect our lives and our families far into the future. We can’t allow ourselves to become a weaker, less prosperous and more divided nation,” Thompson says in the ad that will air on Fox News.

Thompson, 65, enters a crowded GOP field and an extraordinarily fluid race four months before the first votes. While Rudy Giuliani leads in national polls, Mitt Romney maintains an edge in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Overall, Republican voters have expressed less satisfaction with their choices than Democrats, which Thompson sees as an opening for his candidacy.

That is, of course, what you’d expect from the mainstream dino-media. To find out how such a strategy is registering in the so-called “new media” – where the party activists and bloggers live and sniff out new and exciting trends, it’s a little different. To that end, Patrick Ruffini thinks it’s a both a shrewd and savvy plan to attract both attention and mucho dinero – which, in the end, is what this is all about anyways:

There is no doubt that will see a large traffic bump next Thursday, but it probably won’t be as large as it could have been because this is 1) his secondary announcement, and 2) there’s no surprise to it (they announced this new media strategy in the stodgiest way possible — on a conference call with big donors). But I could be wrong: Obama saw bigger traffic for his real announcement than for his exploratory announcement.

Fred-skeptics have picked apart his video-driven strategy as a sign of laziness. But the Internet is not an “either-or” medium; it is the ultimate “and” medium. And it’s by far the most candidate-friendly. Traditional media will not boycott an announcement just because it’s online. They’ll play your video on the air. But the reference to it being online invites viewers to go to your site to get the full thing in its entirety. That’s not the case for B-roll from a traditional announcement rally, because it’s not obvious where to go to get the raw, unfiltered footage.

I heard Rush Limbaugh say earlier today that Thompson using the Tonight Show as a forum for announcing his candidacy demeans the office he is seeking. I disagree. Since the dawn of this Republic, politicians have used whatever means they could to reach out to their intended audiences. Whether it was in debates in a city park, speeches on a back porch, orations delivered from the back of a railroad car, or televison debates, the setting is just as, if not more, important as the setting in which it is delivered. In Thompson’s case, he rightly assumes that nobody except the most rabid political animal is paying any kind of attention to the more traditional forms of political discourse (i.e., televised debates) right now; it’s still way too early for people to pay attention to anything any candidate says. So if Thompson chooses to use Jay Leno as a way to get noticed, he’s only trying to get the biggest band for the buck by reaching out to the most people in as cheap a way as as possible. And who can blame him for that?

I like the fact he’s doing different things to deliberately set himself apart from the rest of the GOP field, and I think, in the end, that will serve him well.

I don’t know anything about him, or even if I would support him, but tonight I say, go for it, Fred!

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:09 | Comments Off on Go For It, Fred
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