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All-but-declared GOP candidate Fred Thompson said Saturday he is in a sound position to make a run for the nomination even though others announced their candidacies months ago.
“We have done within a few months what other people have spent much longer periods of time doing,” Thompson told reporters before delivering a keynote speech to the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference, which has drawn party activists from 12 states.
Thompson has had a less-than-stellar summer that included a campaign staff shake-up and fundraising that failed to meet expectations. But he has polled well in national surveys despite his unofficial status.
“We’ve made some changes along the way and are better for it, and I think we are where we need to be right now,” he said.
Thompson, a former Tennessee senator and an actor known for his role as a district attorney on NBC’s “Law & Order,” was the third and final GOP hopeful to speak at the conference. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke Friday.
He received a more rousing reception when he was introduced to speak than Romney and Huckabee got, with many in the crowd of 500 or so whooping and hollering and shouting, “Fred, Fred, Fred.”
Unlike the stiff character he plays on TV, Thompson was casual as he spoke. He warmed up the crowd with a few jokes, saying that while he was a senator he could recall that every once and awhile, a member of Congress would slip up by “actually spending their own money.”
He spoke mostly in general terms on serious matters, saying that one of the most pressing challenges facing America was national security and the terrorist threat from Islamic radicals. Not enough people take the threat seriously, he said.
“Our country is in danger and it’s going to be in danger for a long time to come,” he said. “We have got to be more united and more committed than ever before.”
He said government spending was out of control, and people had little faith in government solving problems in areas such as energy, education and health care.
“We probably have more cynicism toward our leadership than in a long time,” he said. “How do people follow when people don’t have any confidence in what is said and who is saying it?”
Jean Reed of Greensburg said she has been unsure who she would support, but that Thompson’s appearance and speech probably won her over.
“I think he would make a great candidate,” she said. “He seemed to be very personable, he seemed to be caring, he seemed to know what he believed.”
Murray Winn of Mishawaka said he was still undecided, but hoped Thompson would get into the race soon. “I think it will energize the party if he does,” he said.
Thompson is expected to announce his bid early next month, saying Saturday that he will “certainly be making a statement within short order.”