While his rivals debated Iraq and immigration in New Hampshire Wednesday night, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson made his entry into the Republican field official from talk show host Jay Leno’s couch.
“I’m running for president of the United States,” Thompson said during a taped interview on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on NBC.
Although Thompson did not attend the Republican debate sponsored by Fox News that evening, his presence was felt when his name came up several times during the debate and his 30-second campaign ad aired during the commercial break.
“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 said in the ad.
When Leno asked him why he skipped the debate, Thompson said: “I don’t think much of them. … I’ll do my share, but I don’t think it’s a very enlightening forum, to tell you truth.”
At midnight, he released a 14-minute video announcing his candidacy on his Web site, Fred08.com.
“I love my country and I am concerned about its future,” Thompson said. “Just within the next few years, some very serious challenges are moving toward us that will present a difficult and dangerous time in the life of our nation. There are grave issues effecting the safety and security of the American people and our economic well-being. I’m going to do my level-best in this campaign to address these problems.”
His entry came as no surprise after months of speculation, and then word of his impending announcement came last week. Red State Update summed up Thompson’s campaign:
In New Hampshire, the eight other candidates welcomed the Thompson news with humor. “I think Fred is a really, really good man,” said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “I think he’s done a pretty good job of playing my part on ‘Law & Order.’ “
Sen. John McCain , R-Ariz., had some fun with Thompson skipping the debate. “Maybe we’re up past his bedtime.”
Although Thompson already has been meeting with potential voters, he plans to kick off his official campaign with a five-day tour of early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.