They consider Thompson a strong conservative with stellar communications skills and an interesting resume that includes success and fame as a movie and TV actor. All this reminds many of Ronald Reagan, an icon of the right.
"Fred says he might run and he would be a real threat for the Republican nomination," says a prominent conservative who is neutral in the presidential race so far. The problem: Is Thompson willing to devote the time and energy needed for a run?
Some who dealt with him in the Senate say he is too laid back to do what it takes. "Would he work hard enough? That's always a question with Fred," says an long-time associate.
"And you have to do a lot of silly, demeaning things to get elected and become the most powerful man in the world. Fred hasn't shown much stomach for that."
By Kenneth T. Walsh