Fred Thompson, Super-Surrogate

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 26 2012 10:49 PM

Fred Thompson, Super-Surrogate

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LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07: Actor Fred Thompson (C), his wife Jeri Kehn (R) and a guest attend the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fred Thompson splashily endorsed Newt Gingrich this week, in a friendly Fox News interview, with all the enthusiasm that he could muster. Tonight he made his first spin room appearance, bringing the Gingrich gospel to reporters. Theoretically. In reality, he gave meandering statements about the nature of the debate that, interpreted one way, sounded like arguments for why Romney was a strong debater. A sample:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

- Mitt always is able to talk a lot about things, and is always able to posture when his consultants get through with him.

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- It depends whether you're grading by adult standards or high school debate standards.

- Unless [sic] you just go in pre-ordained and say, I'm gonna stack the crowd, and rally the troops, and get applause lines, and do attack lines, you do one or two successfully, the media says "That's great, do it again!" If you don't, they're disappointed.

- Mitt's gettin' feisty, and he's gettin' in there and throwing punches.

- I don't think he spent more time being on the defensive. He chose not to spend his time to counterattack. I don't know how that's gonna play. He was doing what he was comfortable with.

TPM's Benjy Sarlin tossed Thompson a question about one of Romney's endorsers, Bob Dole, who'd released a letter decrying Gingrich as an erratic leader. "That's not what he said," frowned Thompson. "I think it's unfortunate that they go to these elder statesmen in the party, and they solicit things like that." An incredulous Sarlin followed up to ask if Thompson was commenting on Dole's frailty. "No, he's been in bad health. He's had bad legs. I hate it when people are irritated like that. My mentor, Howard Baker -- they shouldn't be bugged and dragged into this."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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