After First Debate, Fred Thompson Disappears From Campaign Trail

Mitt Romney was in Michigan, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada and then went back to Michigan. Rudy Giuliani visited Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, Alabama, Washington and New Hampshire. John McCain went from Michigan to Iowa to New Hampshire.

But where was Fred, as in Fred Thompson?

Besides participating in his first presidential debate in Michigan last Tuesday, Thompson was missing from the campaign trail. The former Tennessee senator and star of NBC's "Law & Order" was scheduled to be in New Hampshire this weekend, but canceled.

New Hampshire voters noticed.

"He's a late entry. That will probably hurt him," said Geri Gormley, of Bow, who visited with McCain but remains uncommitted. "We're grass roots. Candidates come up and pick our brains, one on one. We had (Barack) Obama's staff come to our door today. That's good strategy."

Thompson was supposed to visit a fundraising breakfast for Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta on Friday. But on Thursday afternoon, Guinta's campaign e-mailed guests to let them know it wasn't happening. The note cited "scheduling conflicts for the senator."

Thompson is scheduled to surface on Monday for a Fox News Channel interview, and evening remarks to the Conservative Party of New York.

Thompson has been to New Hampshire just once since he formally entered the race in September, and that was for a two-day trip that included visits to a chili cook-off, three bars and a rally. The New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper, said in an editorial last week that Thompson's pledge to campaign here often hasn't proved true.

The newspaper suggested Thompson speak to McCain, "who knows a thing or two about winning New Hampshire primaries. You can't do it if you don't show up," the editorial said.

Thompson aides say he also plans stops this week in Washington, Georgia and Florida. A longer visit to New Hampshire is coming, but has not yet been scheduled.

New Hampshire voters on Sunday expressed a range of opinions about Thompson.

"I like him, but he won't make it," said Claire Roy, a Manchester Republican who, like most voters, remains undecided. "He started too late to begin with. I don't think he's presidential material. That's the way I look at it."

Added Ann Essensa, an independent voter from Exeter who visited Giuliani on Sunday: "I don't know enough about (Thompson) yet. I haven't seen him yet."

Norma Champagne, a Manchester Republican, seemed willing to give Thompson a chance.

"He hasn't turned anyone off," said Champagne, who visited an AARP forum this weekend. "He did that other debate and he did very well."