Still shedding campaign advisors, the presidential campaign of Fred Dalton Thompson launches tonight with an appearance on Jay Leno’s couch, an ad near the beginning of the Republican debate in New Hampshire, and a formal announcement via webcast tomorrow.

According to Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook:

Here’s the ad Fred Thompson will air during Fox’s GOP debate at the University of New Hampshire tonight, just after he tapes Jay Leno: “I’m Fred Thompson and I approve this message. On the next president’s watch, our country will make decisions that will affect our lives and our families far into the future. We can’t allow ourselves to become a weaker, less prosperous and more divided nation. Today, as before, the fate of millions across the world depends on the unity and resolve of the American people. I talk about this on, I invite you to take a look and join us.”

The new campaign website is not yet active. Currently, visitors are redirected to the non-campaign website

The text for the ad, if accurate, is unobjectionable but uninspiring — to lead rather than merely snipe, Thompson needs to say how we can be stronger, more prosperous and more united rather than complain about the possibility of becoming weaker, less prosperous and more divided.

Jonathan Martin, another writer at The Politico, writes that the Thompson almost-campaign has shed another staffer:

Another spokesman for Fred Thompson has parted ways with the former senator’s nascent campaign, according to an internal campaign email obtained from a Thompson source tonight.

Jim Mills, the former Fox News producer on Capitol Hill who just joined the effort a few weeks ago, “is leaving the campaign due to strategic differences,” campaign manager Bill Lacy informed Thompson staffers in a message sent late this afternoon.

Niceties aside, Mills was diminished when Lacy brought on board longtime Republican spokesman Todd Harris to run the press operation last week.

A third article at The Politico by David Mark analyzes the results of a new Harris poll showing that Thompson has an long uphill battle:

The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive Aug. 7-13, found only 24 percent of respondents said they would support the former “Law and Order” star in the general election should he win the Republican nomination.

Some 34 percent of the 2,694 U.S. adults surveyed online during the six-day period said they would not vote for Thompson, while 39 percent said they are not sure because they don’t know enough about him yet.

Intrade reports currently that Rudy Giuliani leads the Republican field at 38.1, with Romney edging Thompson 24.5 to 22.6.

The Boston Globe, usually no supporter of Romney, reports Romney taking a poke at Thompson over missing tonight’s debate:

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said yesterday he would welcome Republican rival Fred Thompson to the race, but also took some jabs at Thompson’s long delay in formally announcing his candidacy.

…”I think it will boost the ratings for Jay Leno’s show, but I’d rather be doing well in New Hampshire,” said Romney, who is leading in most polls in this early voting state.

While Republican candidates practice for tonight’s debate — and Fred jokes with Jay — the state primary calendar continues unsettled.

[cehwiedel also writes at]

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