Newsweek, April 9, 2007

CAMPAIGN 2008: Meet the 'Law & Order' Candidate
Holly Bailey
442 words

It looks as if Fred Thompson is getting ready to run for president. Friends of the former Tennessee senator turned actor (anonymous to protect their relationship) say he's increasingly tempted to enter the 2008 Republican primaries, fueled in part by new polls that show he's got a serious shot at the White House. A Gallup poll released last week found Thompson ranked No. 3 behind front runners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain with 12 percent support among Republicans--all before he's even formally launched a campaign. Last week Thompson was spotted in Washington lunching with former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who has publicly urged his longtime friend to run for president. On April 18, Frist and Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp will host Thompson on Capitol Hill, where he'll meet with House and Senate members to discuss his possible candidacy. Wamp, who heads a draft-Thompson committee, told NEWSWEEK that so many lawmakers have expressed interest in the meeting that organizers had to reserve a bigger room and extend Thompson’s visit from one hour to almost a full day. "I really believe he's in," Wamp says. "I think it's only a matter of him getting his personal affairs in order.”

One longtime Thompson friend, who declined to be named while discussing the former senator's personal life, tells NEWSWEEK that Thompson is looking into his contract obligations to "Law & Order" and talking with producers about how his run could affect the franchise. Election law requires equal air time for candidates. If enforced, the law could mean that more than 100 episodes over the past five seasons of "Law & Order" and its various spinoffs might have to be removed from the airwaves during Thompson’s run--or other candidates could demand equal air time. (But not their own show, says former Federal Election Commission official Larry Noble: no " 'Law & Order: Straight Talk Express' or 'Law & Order: It Takes a Village.' ")

Another issue: his address. Thompson and his wife, Jeri, sold their Tennessee home last year and moved to the D.C. suburbs, a closer commute to New York, where "Law & Order" is filmed. A spokesman for the Tennessee Division of Elections tells NEWSWEEK that Thompson was purged from the state's voter rolls last November. Thompson’s son Fred Jr. told reporters his dad is currently "looking to buy a place" in his home state.

Is Thompson, who often complained about long hours in the Senate, up for the rigors of a lengthy campaign? "If he decides to do this, Fred will work as hard as anybody," says Tennessee GOP chairman Bob Davis, a former Thompson aide. "These things don't come around very often, and I think he knows that.”

GRAPHIC: Dun-dun: Thompson, a former fictional D.A., polls third among real Republicans