- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Friends and allies of former Sen. Fred Thompson are making a number of pre-campaign maneuvers indicating the actor plans to make a run for the White House.

Several 2008-themed Web sites have been registered in recent weeks on behalf of Mr. Thompson, and one of his fellow Tennessee Republicans has recruited 60 House lawmakers to meet with Mr. Thompson on April 18 in Washington.

“This is not some passing fancy,” said Rep. Zach Wamp, Tennessee Republican and co-chairman of the Draft Fred Thompson 2008 Committee. “I’ve signed up 60 House Republicans to meet with Senator Thompson on April 18, many of whom are ready to commit.”

Meanwhile, several domain names, including FredThompson2008.com, AmericansforThompson.com and ArthurBranch.com, named after Mr. Thompson’s character on the hit NBC legal drama “Law & Order,” have been purchased by an undisclosed consulting firm using a proxy service that allows them to conceal their identity.

“There is no campaign; my work is literally voluntary,” said Mark Corallo, Mr. Thompson’s spokesman.

“He’s up at 4:30 a.m. each morning to tape the Paul Harvey show. Then he’s on a plane to New York to tape ‘Law & Order,’ ” said Mr. Corallo, a former colleague of Mr. Thompson’s wife, Jeri. “He’s got a ton of things going on, so we want to make this as painless as possible.”

Mr. Thompson has said he will take his time deciding whether to embark on a presidential campaign, but Mr. Wamp suggested that the unexpected groundswell of support may have accelerated that timeline.

“It’s somewhat of a phenomenon. There is a whole lot of momentum, and you don’t want to lose it,” he said.

A Gallup Poll shows Mr. Thompson placing third for the Republican presidential nomination behind former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Mr. Thompson received 12 percent to Mr. Giuliani’s 31 percent and Mr. McCain’s 22 percent. A Gallup Poll released yesterday showed that 58 percent of voters don’t know Mr. Thompson.

Sources close to Mr. Thompson said he was surprised by the enthusiastic reception to his trial balloon and that they expect an announcement in the next several weeks.

Part of Mr. Thompson’s surge in the polls has been attributed to his recent guest-hosting duties on Mr. Harvey’s radio show, a popular conservative program, and a desire among the party’s right wing for a more socially conservative candidate.

Mr. Corallo said he has no direct knowledge of who purchased the domain names. He said some close friends and associates are likely acquiring them “for more charitable reasons” so that a Thompson campaign would not be forced into a bidding war with people who purchase domain names to sell for a profit.

Although purchasing Web domain names is secondary to hiring political staffers and consultants, it is a clear indicator that Mr. Thompson is moving forward with the machinations of a campaign. Similar efforts were made by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat; Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat; Mr. McCain; and Mr. Giuliani before they formally announced presidential campaigns.

Republicans backing the effort to draft Mr. Thompson include Reps. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Tennessee, J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina, Jeff Miller of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Mr. Wamp said.

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