Fred Thompson Builds Buzz Online

Former US Senator and television actor Fred Thompson applauds during the 4th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast April 13, 2007 in Washington, DC. Thompson is said to have considered running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Fred Thompson plays a district attorney on TV and, in real life, a commentator on the Internet — two roles that give him plenty of visibility for a presidential bid.

In recent weeks, the former Tennessee senator, who is considering a run for the Republican nomination, has used conservative Web sites to opine about tax cuts, the Virginia Tech shootings, even the NFL draft.

"Whenever I've seen one of those 'Gun-Free Zone' signs," Thompson mused at National Review Online, "I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago."

The actor-politician had experimented with blogging, posting two- and three-sentence thoughts on the Web site for ABC News Radio, for whom he is a host and commentator.

But not until several weeks ago, after declaring an interest in the presidency, did he start weighing in in earnest.

His opinion columns now are appearing on RedState.com, the Pajamas Media blog, National Review Online and his own blog, The Fred Thompson Report. Several other conservative Web sites have picked up the commentaries.

Thompson's online activity helps create a buzz about him as he weighs a White House campaign, said GOP strategist David Winston.

"It gets distribution among key audiences — conservatives, the media, people interested in politics," Winston said. "People hear about an interesting idea, and it just spreads; people tell other people."

He drew a comparison to the way Democrat Barack Obama's profile soared after he started running for president. The freshman senator's MySpace page has amassed 160,000 friends since Los Angeles paralegal Joe Anthony created it. The Obama campaign took over the page on the News Corp.-owned social networking site from Anthony earlier this week.

Thompson, 64, needs an online presence if he wants to run, said Keith Appell, a GOP strategist and consultant for Pajamas Media.

"The blogosphere and the Internet are truly transforming the campaign. It's making that kind of outreach a necessity, whereas before, candidates could take it or leave it," Appell said.

"In 2004, Howard Dean almost financed his whole campaign over the Internet," he said. "It's only going to continue to change the way politics is done."

In polls, Thompson does well for someone who isn't even running, vying with candidate Mitt Romney and potential candidate Newt Gingrich for third in recent surveys. Thompson already is known to millions of television viewers as gruff district attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's long-running drama "Law & Order."

His blogging is yet another indication that Thompson is serious about running. Another is his public admission last month that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer. Thompson said he is in remission and never felt ill.

He's also is making high-profile appearances. He's scheduled to speak Friday to the Lincoln Club of Orange County, Calif.

  • David Miller

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