Numerous news outlets are reporting this morning that former Senator Fred Thompson has stood up to the plate in a conference call with major donors, anticipating a June 4th one-day fundraising bonanza immediately prior to the next debate among declared Republican candidates, and a formal announcement over the July 4th weekend that Big Fred is a candidate.

That leaves Newt out in the cold alone, not expected to announce until mid-to-late September.

If this scenario pans out, Thompson/Romney would be a strong Republican ticket that provides a natural successor, with Newt in a high policy advisory position in the Thompson Administration, and Rudy in charge of DHS and Rick Santorum as Attorney General.

Not the best of tickets for social-issue conservatives, but strong on national defense. It avoids the depths of the social-issues tar pit but mucks in the shallows. It does not provoke glee, but it’s bearable.

Drudge links to the Mike Allen story at The Politico:

Thompson, the “Law and Order” star and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, has been publicly coy, even as people close to him have been furiously preparing for a late entry into the wide-open contest. But the advisers said Thompson dropped all pretenses on Tuesday afternoon during a conference call with more than 100 potential donors, each of whom was urged to raise about $50,000.

Stephen F. Hayes at The Weekly Standard has also run the flag up the pole:

FRED THOMPSON IS RUNNING for the Republican presidential nomination. In a conference call Monday, Thompson addressed a group of more than 100 supporters and fundraisers whom the campaign has dubbed First Day Founders. He told them that he would be setting up an organization that will allow him to begin raising money and recruiting staff.

In official campaign finance parlance, the move represents a shift from “giving serious consideration” to a presidential bid, as Thompson said he would do back in March, as a non-candidate, to a “testing the waters” period where one is, in effect, a candidate-in-waiting with a campaign-in-preparation. Thompson advisers point out that the new testing-the-waters entity is not quite a campaign committee, though it will officially begin accepting contributions on June 4. On that day–the First Day, as it were–the campaign will take in donations that it can then tout as an impressive one-day haul. A corollary benefit will be that news reports about Thompson’s non-entry entry will run on June 5, when the declared candidates will meet in New Hampshire for their third debate. (Thompson won’t be required to disclose his donors and the amounts they give to the Federal Election Commission until September.)

This development definitely strengthens the Republican field.

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