House GOP Gush Over Actor Fred Thompson

The Associated Press
Wednesday, April 18, 2007; 9:46 PM

WASHINGTON -- The welcome for Fred Thompson wasn't just warm, it was effusive. The former Tennessee senator and actor is still weighing whether to run for the GOP presidential nomination but House Republicans who met with him Wednesday gushed over the prospects of Thompson candidacy.

They called him presidential, a leader, a proven conservative, an exciting prospect and "a breath of fresh air."

"I wanted to come over and see some of my old friends and make some new friends and tell them what was on my mind and listen and to see what was on their minds," Thompson said in a brief statement to reporters camped outside the Capitol Hill Club.

"We had a good talk. I enjoyed it, and we'll be seeing some more of each other I'm sure," added Thompson, the actor who plays the gruff district attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's "Law & Order."

Before ducking into a waiting vehicle, he shook his head no when asked whether he had a timeline for deciding whether to run for president. Thompson has appeared to move closer to a candidacy in recent weeks. Last week, he disclosed that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, nearly three years ago but now is in remission.

Some 50 House Republicans attended the private meeting arranged by Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, a Republican leading a draft-Thompson campaign.

Several lawmakers who were there said Thompson indicated that while he was seriously considering a candidacy, he had not decided whether to run. They said he talked about his life and answered questions. A handful of lawmakers said they encouraged him to run and told him they'd endorse him if he officially enters the race.

"He was called presidential, and he was. He was told he was electable, and he is," Wamp said.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., said: "there was a breath of fresh air in the room today," while Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., added: "he spoke as though he was a president." Rep. David Davis, R-Tenn., said people are looking for a candidate with a proven conservative voting record and "Fred Thompson's the man."

Even those congressmen who wouldn't yet commit offered praise.

"Very impressive," said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla. "He has the charisma and the fortitude to lead our nation at what is a very difficult time." And Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., called Thompson a straight shooter, and said: "I'm looking for somebody that can excite America again."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, called Thompson a candidate who "Americans can get behind" but said there was one "glaring error." "It's nearly impossible to get elected if you're bald-headed," Gohmert quipped.

© 2007 The Associated Press