Newsweek, May 28, 2007

The Sign Of the Red Truck
Holly Bailey
307 words

Folks in Franklin, Tenn., think they'll know when Fred Thompson decides to run for president. Parked in Thompson’s mother's driveway is the rusting red Chevy pickup that the former senator turned actor drove all over the state during his two U.S. Senate campaigns. He drove the truck to Washington in 1994 after he was elected to fill an unexpired term and used it as a populist stunt again during his re-election campaign, often giving speeches from the lowered tailgate. "People are watching that truck like hawks," says the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, who also lives in Franklin. "Nobody can imagine he won't use it if he runs.”

Thompson isn't the only one under surveillance. Politics junkies and rival campaigns have been looking for signs among other potential candidates. Pundits are watching Al Gore's waistline under the theory that the former veep will slim down if he decides to seek the Democratic nod. Will Michael Bloomberg run? Contact with Ross Perot and his advisers might be a sign that the New York City mayor will mount a third-party run for the White House. Others are watching how often Chuck Hagel talks to Bloomberg, after the Nebraska senator hinted that he's talked to the mayor about a joint ticket. Also under close watch: Newt Gingrich's continued efforts to make nice with social conservatives in his party, who have problems with his string of failed marriages and admission of adultery.

Thompson, who now lives in Virginia, hasn't driven his pickup in several years. The paint is peeling and its U.S. Senate license plates expired back in 2002. Mark Corallo, a spokesman, says Thompson "just hasn't had the heart to sell her." "I don't know if the truck will be resurrected," he told NEWSWEEK, adding that Thompson has made no decision about 2008. In other words, he's still idling in the driveway.

GRAPHIC: Driver's Seat: Thompson in the trademark pickup