Fred Thompson

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- Four years ago, the Republican candidates for president met for a final debate before the New Hampshire primary. Mitt Romney had been the presumed frontrunner but was no longer -- he had been embarrassed by Mike Huckabee in Iowa and was facing a resurgent John McCain in New Hampshire. Yet his rivals could not resist going after him, even in his weakened state. They ganged up on Romney in a tag team, taking turns with their shots and cackling in glee whenever someone else landed a hit.

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JOHNSTON, IOWA -- When the final vote was tallied at the caucus precinct I was observing, at an evangelical church in the well-to-do outer exurbs of Polk County outside Des Moines, the woman who had spoken for Mitt Romney before the voting, Martha Fullerton, whispered under her breath to a fellow supporter: “We won by one vote.” She shrugged. “A win’s a win.” But a short while later, as I was speaking with voters, a man rushed in. “Where do I vote?” he asked.

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As Republicans far and wide take turns wielding the baseball bat against Newt Gingrich's kneecaps, one legendary brawler has decided to stick up for him: Rudy Giuliani. The former mayor's counterattack on Mitt Romney earlier today held little back. From Politico: "I’ve never seen a guy change his position so many times, so fast, on a dime,” Giuliani said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

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Even as the political world awaits the further unfolding of Herman Cain’s handling of sexual harassment allegations, one of his rivals is on the brink of making a strategic decision that could have an even greater impact on the Republican presidential nominating contest, and on the general election as well. Will Mitt Romney go for a “quick kill” by focusing his vast resources on a serious bid to win the Iowa Caucuses just two months from now?

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&c

-- Newest frontier of television news: designated commentator for missing child stories.  -- Fred Thompson on DSK: “You can be sure of one thing: This never would have happened if Arthur Branch were still running things.”  -- Rupert Murdoch and the “reverse ferret.”  -- “Easy ways” to balance the budget are not actually so easy.  -- Good American basketball jobs might flee to Turkey.  -- The debt ceiling cat.

Matt Bai insists that Jon Huntsman is a serious candidate with a strong chance at winning the Republican nomination, and that anybody who thinks otherwise is just a blinkered Republican-hater: But most Democrats and some of my fellow media types seem to regard Mr. Huntsman more as this year’s Wes Clark or Fred Thompson, a guy who looks good on paper but is going precisely nowhere. Among other things, they point to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll that found that only 35 percent of Republicans had even heard of Mr.

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Fred Thompson writes a really funny, excellent deconstruction of lazy campaign journalism. In 2007, the story was circulating that Thompson was too lazy to win a presidential primary. One reporterer claimed that he was driven around the Iowa State Fair rather than walk.

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By now, it should be obvious that anyone hoping party insiders will draft a Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or Rick Perry to rescue the lackluster Republican 2012 field from itself is living in a hopeless fantasyland. But in case you need even more evidence, consider this: Dark-horse candidates who aren’t fully committed to running for president, deep within their bones, have a terrible track record of misfires and flameouts. We need look no further back than 2008 for a vivid historical example.

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I've been waiting for my months-long campaign of pronouncing Mitt Romney a dead man walking to provoke some kind of backlash, and it's finally arrived. Steve Kornacki argues that Republicans frequently choose nominees with major ideological apostasies: John McCain, who was championing a Ted Kennedy-backed immigration reform plan when the '08 process began (and immigration was hardly his only problem), is the extreme example.  Bob Dole, once dubbed "the tax collector for the welfare state" by Newt Gingrich, was hardly a perfect fit for the rabidly anti-government Republican Party of 1996.

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Media Maven

Like most great women of mystery, Sarah Palin is at once everywhere and nowhere. On any given evening, you might see the former Alaska governor-turned-conservative-icon on Fox News, chatting up like-minded travelers about the political buzz du jour. Her byline pops up now and again in the opinion pages (supporting McCain, bashing enviros). She periodically hits the campaign trail with favored candidates. She is a prolific and passionate tweeter.

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