Ed Kilgore has some smart thoughts about Fred Thompson's decision to hang a "Gone Fishin" sign on his campaign until September. Contra Thompson's contention that "August is kind of a down month," Kilgore writes:
That may be true in Washington, but not so much in, say, Iowa, where August features the State Republican Party's big Straw Poll (which Thompson apparently won't contest), not to mention the Iowa State Fair, where presidential candidates will be so thick on the ground that you won't be able to stir them with a stick. Indeed, Thompson's "not much going on" dismissal of the opportunity to eat corn dogs and deep-fried twinkies and admire the Butter Cow sculpture is a good sign that he has decided to skip Iowa altogether.
More generally, Thompson's "what happens in August stays in August" attitude is another example of the strangely retro feel of his campaign. Among most political practitioners these days, it's become a truism that New Media have largely reshaped the political calendar in ways that have sharply reduced "down time." That was one of the big lessons learned from the Swift Boat saga of August 2004, which caught the Kerry campaign off guard in part because they assumed no one was paying attention.
I think Kilgore's right to surmise that Thompson must have decided to skip Iowa. Which means he's really going to need to have a strong showing in New Hampshire. Too bad his only appearance in New Hampshire to date came last month, when he gave a nine-minute speech to Republican activists that left one of them complaining, "He's got a nice voice. But there was nothing there. He's for apple pie and motherhood. He's going to have to say what he's for." Just wait 'til September!