Thursday, August 02, 2007

Iowa Republicans Making a Mistake by Ignoring Tommy Thompson

Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson can't seem to catch a break.

The former Wisconsin governor has seemingly done everything right in his quest to win the Iowa caucuses, yet his campaign hasn't seemed to gain any momentum. Why Iowa Republicans continue to pass him by is a mystery.

He can put his credentials up against anybody else in the race. As a three-term governor of Iowa's neighbor to the northeast, Thompson was able to lead successfully in a state that didn't always match his political ideology.

He reformed welfare systems during that time, and he did it in a way that pleased both sides of the aisle. He said his efforts reduced the Wisconsin welfare caseload by 93 percent, and those welfare reforms became the model for change across the country throughout the 1990s.

Thompson also has just enough experience in the federal government to count as a big feather in his cap, but not too much time -- not enough to make him a Washington insider. He served as secretary of Health and Human Services during the first term of President George W. Bush, though he should gain a few extra points for getting out of the Bush administration at the end of that first term.

Thompson has logged more miles on Iowa highways and visited more Iowa towns than any candidate in the race, Republican or Democrat. This kind of traditional politicking ought to be making a difference, as Republicans jockey for position in a wide-open field. But when Thompson's bus rolled into the small town of Albia a few days ago, a grand total of 13 locals showed up -- and that's counting me.

Thompson gave a passionate pitch for the support of the few Republicans at the event.
He hit all of the crucial Republican notes -- he's pro-life and always has been, he's tough on immigration, and he's used his veto pen more than 1,900 time to keep taxes low in Wisconsin. Oh, and he's a farmer.

On the surface, he seems like a fantastic candidate for the Republicans, especially those Republicans reportedly dissatisfied with their current top-tier options.
Thompson is good at working a crowd, and those Midwestern credentials ought to be worth something in the minds of Iowa Republican caucus voters. Sure, he may not be as charismatic as Mitt Romney, or as famous as Rudy Giuliani, but he shows the executive branch qualities that make a good Republican presidential candidate.

But it's make-or-break time for the Tommy Thompson campaign, and he knows it. He has put all his chips in to make a splash at the Republican Straw Poll on Aug. 11. At each of the more than 100 stops on his current bus tour, he's offering people free transportation and tickets. If he doesn't do well in the straw poll, he's done.

Republicans would do themselves a favor by giving him a look before the straw poll.

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