Fred Thompson Tries Retail Politics

The Associated Press
Sunday, September 9, 2007; 3:23 PM

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson left a trail of half-empty coffee cups and barely sipped Diet Pepsis on Sunday as he jumped into the kind of person-to-person political campaigning that voters here demand.

On his first swing across New Hampshire as a declared candidate, Thompson visited bars and restaurants where voters watched football and drank beer. Some asked about immigration, the economy and politics.

He even signed a magazine that featured him on the cover with the headline, "Lazy Like a Fox."

"I'm going to lose more weight on this thing. I'll never get close enough to food to eat it," the former Tennessee senator joked with the throng of reporters and photographers chasing him.

Thompson faces some obstacles in states that vote early in the presidential primary process, like New Hampshire. His rivals have spent considerable time and money building organizations here and meeting with voters as they like it _ one on one and in small groups.

He pledged Sunday to play catch-up.

"This is where it's at," Thompson said. "Breaking out of the Beltway, getting past the pundits and all the experts and all the people who make their money on politics, getting out there and talking with the people is what it's all about."

He said he would leave his fate up to the people and the Lord.

"That's all I can ask," Thompson said.

He made his way through one restaurant, leaving behind half-finished orders before finally grabbing a hamburger to go. At his first stop, he left behind half a cup of coffee.

"That's pretty good coffee. I hate to leave it," he bemoaned.

He was following the day in Manchester with a late-afternoon rally at Nashua City Hall, where then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kennedy launched his New Hampshire campaign for the 1960 presidential election.

A day earlier, Thompson dropped by a Republican women's chili dinner at a farm just after a rain storm.

"If I can get out and have days like this and see people like this, you know, it makes no difference to me whether it's raining or not," Thompson, a star of NBC's "Law & Order," said Saturday.

Thompson on Sunday also rejected comparisons with Ronald Reagan, another former Republican actor-turned-politician.

"The only comparison I like with regard to Ronald Reagan _ which nobody can live up to _ is that he was so believable. He was such a good communicator because he believed so intensely in his principles and he stuck with them. The camera doesn't lie," Thompson said.

"When you do that, people see that. To the extent that one could compare us in that respect, I'd be honored," he continued. "Other than that, there won't be another Ronald Reagan in my lifetime."

© 2007 The Associated Press