Republican Fred Thompson, whose entry into the presidential race has been long anticipated, will officially launch his candidacy Sept. 6 in a webcast on his campaign site, followed by a five-day tour of early primary states, The Associated Press has learned.
The preliminary campaign of the former Tennessee senator and "Law & Order" actor is to disclose details about how he will formally enter the race in a Thursday afternoon conference call with supporters.
House parties will be held nationwide on Sept. 6. A tour of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will quickly follow the Internet announcement on www.imwithfred.com, with later stops in Florida, and a homecoming event in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., on Sept. 15.
On Wednesday, Thompson will appear on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" but he won't participate with his Republican rivals in a debate that same night in New Hampshire.
Thompson brings to the eight-man GOP field a right-leaning Senate voting record with a few digressions from GOP orthodoxy and a healthy dose of Hollywood star power. He is hoping to attract conservatives who are lukewarm about the current crop of candidates.
Earlier this year, Thompson saw his popularity soar in polls when he acknowledged he was considering a run. Since then, he's consistently ranked among the top Republicans in national polls and surveys in key states alike.
He has spent months "testing the waters" of a presidential campaign, playing coy with the public about his intentions even as he opened campaign offices, started raising money and hired a campaign staff. But his preliminary campaign stumbled this summer, fueling doubts that Thompson has what it takes to mount a challenge to top contenders Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain.
Organizationally, Thompson underwent a series of staffing changes — including the replacement of his manager-in-waiting — and other aide departures amid consternation about the active role of Thompson's wife, Jeri. At the same time, little progress was made setting up organizations in key states.
Thompson also failed on the fundraising front to reach the $5 million goal his backers had set for the first month he sought to bring in cash, and he dramatically lags his top rivals in money. He reported a lackluster $3.5 million.
His delayed entrance into the race — which at one point was to occur in July — has prompted rumblings in Washington and early primary states that he may have missed his window.