- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting started

Republican presidential candidateFred Thompson left a trail of half-empty coffee cups and barely sipped Diet Pepsis yesterday as he jumped into the kind of person-to-person political campaigning that voters in New Hampshire demand.

On his first swing across the state as a declared candidate, the former Tennessee senator visited bars and restaurants where voters watched football and drank beer. Some asked about immigration, the economy and politics.

He even signed a magazine that featured him on the cover with the headline “Lazy Like a Fox,” the Associated Press reports.

“I’m going to lose more weight on this thing. I’ll never get close enough to food to eat it,” Mr. Thompson joked with the throng of reporters and photographers chasing him.

Mr. Thompson faces obstacles in states that vote early in the presidential primary process, such as New Hampshire. His rivals have spent considerable time and money building organizations here and meeting with voters as they like it — one-on-one and in small groups.

He pledged to play catch-up.

“This is where it’s at,” Mr. Thompson said. “Breaking out of the Beltway, getting past the pundits and all the experts and all the people who make their money on politics, getting out there and talking with the people is what it’s all about.”

He said he will leave his fate up to the people and the Lord.

“That’s all I can ask,” Mr. Thompson said.

Changing course

Sen. Larry Craig will file court documents today asking to withdraw his guilty plea in a sex sting that seems likely to end his career, his attorney said.

The Idaho Republican pleaded guilty in August to disorderly conduct after a sting operation in a men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis airport.

Mr. Craig has said he regrets that decision, which he said he made hastily and without talking to a lawyer.

LawyerWilliam Martinsaid last night that a request to withdraw that plea would be filed today, the Associated Press reports. Such requests are rarely granted. Mr. Martin would not discuss the argument he plans to make in court.

Mr. Martin said he was not involved in discussions about Mr. Craig’s future in the Senate. Mr. Craig originally announced he would resign at the end of the month, then said he was reconsidering that decision. His chief spokesman later said Mr. Craig had dropped virtually all notions of trying to finish his third term, which ends next year.

“My job is to get him back to where he was before his rights were taken away,” Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Craig’s congressional spokesman has said the only way Mr. Craig is likely to remain in the Senate is if a court moves quickly to overturn the conviction, which is unlikely to happen before the end of the month.

But Judy Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Craig’s legal team, said the lawyers are focused only on the Minnesota case, not political outcomes.

McCain’s gamble

“Tempers flared as a horde of journalists jostled its way through the headquarters of Granite State Manufacturing last week,” Stephen F. Hayes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“ ’Where are you from?’ demanded a cameraman with a shaved head toting an unwieldy TV camera on his shoulder. His question was directed at a tanned TV news reporter with Lego hair who kept thrusting his Fox 10 microphone in front of the candidate. ‘You should tell your cameraman that he’s not the only one here! He keeps walking right into my shot!’

“It was crowded. There were also two boom microphones, seven television cameras, 10 still photographers, and at least a dozen print reporters,” Mr. Hayes said.

“This was not what I expected when I decided to join John McCain for the launch of his fall campaign. For much of the summer, the only stories about McCain’s campaign told of its demise and the imminent end of his political career. The conventional wisdom in Washington: He’s finished.

“McCain has certainly had a difficult few months. His fundraising has been weak, his spending excessive, his campaign staff gutted. He favored Bush-style immigration reform; GOP primary voters do not. And he is the most outspoken proponent of the unpopular Iraq war among the candidates.

“One commentator after another has informed us that McCain’s support for the war dooms his campaign. Even with positive reports out of Iraq from the unlikeliest sources — Carl Levin? Hillary Clinton? — the prevailing sense is that McCain is playing an unwinnable hand.

“McCain thinks they’re all wrong, and he’s betting his candidacy on it. In appearances across southern New Hampshire last week, he spoke mostly about the war and the need to win it. This week, he will travel through several states with pro-war veterans in what his campaign is calling the ‘No Surrender Tour.’

“If this were poker, he’d be all in.”

Numbers game

A new poll shows 36 percent of Republican voters in South Carolina would vote to re-elect Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2008, regardless of who challenges him in the June primary — but there is disagreement whether that shows the first-term senator could be in trouble, the Greenville News reports.

Dave Woodard of Clemson University’s Strom Thurmond Institute, a Republican pollster-consultant who helped conduct the poll, said the 36 percent “re-elect regardless” figure was the lowest he’s seen in 15-plus years of polling.

“By experience I know this is not a good number for him,” Mr. Woodard said.

But Richard Quinn, Mr. Graham’s Columbia-based strategist, said of the “re-elect regardless” number that “anything above 30 percent is considered safe for an incumbent.”

“Quinn would say that since he is Lindsey’s campaign consultant,” Mr. Woodard said. “The fact is that ‘re-elect regardless’ in the 30s is not a good number at all. The night before he resigned the presidency, Richard Nixon had positive approval ratings by 30 percent of the American people.

“Now, I don’t think this number means Lindsey would lose; he’s got $4 million; he’s fine. But let’s don’t fool ourselves into saying he doesn’t have problems and the re-elect number is OK.”

Many conservatives have criticized Mr. Graham for his strong stance in support of this year’s Senate immigration legislation, which was blocked by a Republican-led filibuster.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washington times.com.

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