WASHINGTON – Former Sen. Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, told supporters Thursday that he would formally enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination next week, with TV and Internet appearances designed to exploit the actor-politician’s celebrity.
Thompson, 65, has talked about running for president since the spring, but has repeatedly put off an announcement as he replaced staffers and raised more than $3 million for the effort.
Thompson and campaign aides told donors and supporters in conference calls that he would launch the campaign officially with a webcast next Thursday. The campaign later confirmed the announcement in an e-mail to reporters. A tour of early-voting states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will follow the kickoff announcement.
Thompson’s campaign and NBC are trying to arrange an appearance by Thompson on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” Wednesday, the night before the official kickoff. An NBC executive said Thursday that both sides were pursuing the booking, but his appearance is not yet confirmed.
The other Republican presidential contenders are scheduled to debate that night in New Hampshire. The Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper, said in an editorial this week that Thompson, who has been exploring a campaign for months to the impatience of some Republicans, should enter the race and appear at the debate. But a Thompson appearance on the Leno show could eclipse the debate and give the candidate an enormous audience in a friendly entertainment venue.
“I believe that there are millions of Americans who know that our security and prosperity are at risk if we don’t address the challenges of our time; the global threat of terrorism; taxes and spending that will bankrupt future generations, and a government that can’t seem to get the most basic responsibilities right for its citizens,” Thompson said in a campaign e-mail.