It's "The Fred Show" This Afternoon in Michigan

The GOP presidential hopefuls will gather in Dearborn, Michigan this afternoon for another one of their interminable debates.

But this gabfest is grabbing a little more attention than usual. Joining the clique onstage will be former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, the man generally acknowledged to be currently running second to Rudy Giuliani in national polls.

He also has a bullseye on his back for a variety of reasons. Thompson has struggled a bit in his campaign so far as the shakedown period continues and he gets used to the media spotlight that gets thrown on every word he utters. He has made a few verbal gaffes and has not particularly wowed the crowds flocking to see him.

But now he will get a chance to be measured against his opponents.

This afternoon, when Republican presidential candidates gather in Dearborn, Mich., for their sixth major debate, much of the focus will be on the former actor and whether he can seize the moment, not only to distinguish himself from the rest of the field but also to rebut accusations that he is too lazy, too ill-prepared and too vague to be the GOP nominee.

"This is an opportunity for Fred Thompson to chip away at the rap his critics use against him by being very well prepared and very smooth," said Republican consultant Whit Ayres.

"He needs to verify the hope and promise that many voters have placed in him." "He has to overperform," said GOP strategist Alex Vogel, who described what he called a "huge buildup" for Thompson, followed by a "real or perceived letdown." The debate, Vogel said, "is either a real opportunity to kick things into the next gear or a real underperformance."
Indeed, Thompson himself is playing down expectations as much as possible in hopes that his performance will seem spectacular by comparison:
Untested in debate against his opponents until now, Mr. Thompson, a late entrant to the race, chose to skip the last contest in favor of announcing his candidacy on “The Tonight Show” early last month — a decision for which he was roundly criticized.

Many have been wondering how Mr. Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, will do. By his own admission he is “a bit rusty” when it comes to debating, and he has said he hopes he will be able to “hang in there” with the other candidates, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the sharp-tongued former New York mayor, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who is known for his polished delivery.
The wild card tonight will be moderator Chris Matthews of MSNBC who has angered Republicans by referring to the Bush Administration as criminal. Some conservatives have suggested that the candidates take Matthews to task for his remarks which could make for some interesting fireworks. But Fred will be the focus tonight.

It will probably be a make or break night for him because, as
Ed Morrissey points out, "no one gets a second chance to make a first impression." And for Thompson, that impression will have to be that he's running hard and really wants to be President of the United States.
The GOP presidential hopefuls will gather in Dearborn, Michigan this afternoon for another one of their interminable debates.

But this gabfest is grabbing a little more attention than usual. Joining the clique onstage will be former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, the man generally acknowledged to be currently running second to Rudy Giuliani in national polls.

He also has a bullseye on his back for a variety of reasons. Thompson has struggled a bit in his campaign so far as the shakedown period continues and he gets used to the media spotlight that gets thrown on every word he utters. He has made a few verbal gaffes and has not particularly wowed the crowds flocking to see him.

But now he will get a chance to be measured against his opponents.

This afternoon, when Republican presidential candidates gather in Dearborn, Mich., for their sixth major debate, much of the focus will be on the former actor and whether he can seize the moment, not only to distinguish himself from the rest of the field but also to rebut accusations that he is too lazy, too ill-prepared and too vague to be the GOP nominee.

"This is an opportunity for Fred Thompson to chip away at the rap his critics use against him by being very well prepared and very smooth," said Republican consultant Whit Ayres.

"He needs to verify the hope and promise that many voters have placed in him." "He has to overperform," said GOP strategist Alex Vogel, who described what he called a "huge buildup" for Thompson, followed by a "real or perceived letdown." The debate, Vogel said, "is either a real opportunity to kick things into the next gear or a real underperformance."
Indeed, Thompson himself is playing down expectations as much as possible in hopes that his performance will seem spectacular by comparison:
Untested in debate against his opponents until now, Mr. Thompson, a late entrant to the race, chose to skip the last contest in favor of announcing his candidacy on “The Tonight Show” early last month — a decision for which he was roundly criticized.

Many have been wondering how Mr. Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, will do. By his own admission he is “a bit rusty” when it comes to debating, and he has said he hopes he will be able to “hang in there” with the other candidates, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the sharp-tongued former New York mayor, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who is known for his polished delivery.
The wild card tonight will be moderator Chris Matthews of MSNBC who has angered Republicans by referring to the Bush Administration as criminal. Some conservatives have suggested that the candidates take Matthews to task for his remarks which could make for some interesting fireworks. But Fred will be the focus tonight.

It will probably be a make or break night for him because, as
Ed Morrissey points out, "no one gets a second chance to make a first impression." And for Thompson, that impression will have to be that he's running hard and really wants to be President of the United States.