Writing for MSNBC, Tom Curry assesses the chances the GOP presidential candidates have among conservative voters.

Using tonight’s debate as a springboard for comment, he points out the perceived problems of several of the candidates. Some are seen as being too liberal (Giuliani) or possibly too wishy-washy on important conservative issues (Romney) or too hostile to the conservative movement’s powers that be (McCain).

What’s a voter to do?

Curry points to the undeclared hopeful, Fred Thompson, as having the ability to appeal to GOP voters of all stripes:

One conservative who’ll be absent from Thursday night’s debate is former Sen. Fred Thompson, who, during his eight years in the Senate, earned an 86 out of 100 ACU [American Conservative Union] rating.Conservatives are waiting for him to make his move.“I don’t know that there is substantial coalescing behind any candidate at the moment,” said Iowa activist Loras Schulte, who ran Gary Bauer’s Iowa campaign in 2000. “It is still wide open. You begin to wonder what happens if and when Fred Thompson gets in the race. He could play a major role in our caucuses.”

“His record, while not perfect, resonates with a lot of conservatives,” said [Mike Long, head of New York’s Conservative Party].

It’s still unknown whether Thompson is planning to run but tonight’s debate will give voters the opportunity to decide for themselves whether there is someone among the current crop of candidates worthy of the GOP nomination.

It’s still unknown whether Thompson is planning to run but tonight’s debate will give voters the opportunity to decide for themselves whether there is someone among the current crop of candidates worthy of the GOP nomination.Laura Echevarria (www.lauraechevarria.com )

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