Former Republican Senator Fred Thompson is taking steps to join the 2008 presidential race. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has the latest from Washington.
Several news reports quoting anonymous sources close to Fred Thompson say he will set up a committee next week that will allow him to raise money and hire staff for a presidential bid next year.
A report on the Politico political news Web site says Thompson is planning to officially enter the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination over the U.S. Independence Day holiday on July 4.
"It has been behind the scenes, but the campaign has been very carefully planned out with mechanisms in place for raising money," said Mike Allen, with the Politico.com. "They are going to start paying staff members next week. There is going to be a testing-the-waters committee formed, and probably around the first week in July, Senator Thompson will make it official."
Thompson has been considering a presidential bid for months, beginning with an interview on Fox television back in March.
"I am going to wait and see how it pans out, see how they do, how it develops," he said. "A lot of people think it is late already. I do not really think it is, although the rules of the game have changed somewhat."
Thompson previously served as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee and as a Washington lobbyist. He is also well known for his acting roles in films and on television in the popular NBC series Law and Order.
If he did get in the race, Thompson would join a crowded Republican field that already includes 10 contenders.
But Thompson has scored well in public opinion polls among Republican voters, placing about third in many surveys, behind former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Senator John McCain and about even with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Political experts say Thompson could have an immediate impact if he entered the race for the Republican nomination, in part because of doubts about the current frontrunners.
"With Giuliani, it is his liberal social views on abortion and other subjects," said Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "With McCain, it is the fact that he is such a maverick and out of the Republican mainstream on a wide variety of issues. And with Romney, it is that he is a champion flip-flopper [on issues]."
Experts say Thompson also might appeal to religious conservative voters who so far have not focused on a favorite in the Republican field.
Thompson may not be the last Republican to join the race if he makes a run for the nomination. Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia says he will decide on a presidential bid sometime after September.