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Fred Thompson to Officially Join US Presidential Race


Former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee will officially enter the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination next Thursday, ending months of anticipation about a bid for the White House. Thompson's entry into the race could have a major impact, as we hear from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone in Washington.

Thompson spent months testing the waters for a presidential run. His campaign says the official announcement will come on a video webcast on Thursday, followed by visits to the early presidential contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Thompson has been strongly hinting he will be a candidate in recent speeches around the country including this one in New Hampshire.

"We are the most prosperous nation in the world, the most powerful and we have brought more freedom to more people in the history of the world and been a beacon to all freedom seeking people around the world for a couple hundred years now, and we are going to stay that way," he said. "We are going to stay strong as a nation and strong as a party."

Political experts say Thompson's candidacy is likely to have an immediate impact on the already crowded Republican presidential field.

"Fred Thompson seems to satisfy most conservatives in a way that the other candidates do not," said Larry Sabato a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "Thompson also has a Reaganesque quality about him because of his connection to Hollywood, and Republicans always try to nominate Ronald Reagan, just like Democrats always try to nominate John F. Kennedy."

So far, social conservative voters seem split among several Republican contenders including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Analyst John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington expects Thompson to make a strong bid for the support of social conservatives within the Republican Party.

"He is a southern senator. Southern states are the base of the Republican Party. He is somewhat conservative. I will say it is a bit of mixed case if you look back to his time in the Senate. He actually worked with John McCain a lot and was something of a maverick, but overall is pretty conservative on a number of issues and he is well known and has a folksy, well-liked way [about him]," he explained.

Thompson has done well in public opinion polls, often running in second place behind Giuliani in national surveys even though he was not officially in the race.

But Thompson's fundraising has been disappointing, something his rivals were quick to seize on.

Some experts argue that Thompson's delay in getting in the Republican race could help him, offering a fresh face at a time when no favorite has emerged for the party's presidential nomination.

"The Republicans have a problem. They do not have an ideal candidate. All their candidates have either flaws or question marks," said expert Stuart Rothenberg, who was a recent guest on VOA's Encounter program.

Thompson served as a senator in the 1990s, but is best known by the public for his acting roles in films and in the popular television show Law and Order.