CONTAINING LINKS TO 1280 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     COMMENTS: Thompsonís New Role

Actor Fred Thompson's screen credits make him an easy Presidential candidate to cover in a television news story. Sure enough, when the former Tennessee senator announced that he would formally begin fundraising for a run for the Republican nomination, ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) strung together a Law & Order TV clip with movie clips from Die Hard 2 and In the Line of Fire before the inevitable line: "Playing a President is a lot easier than being one." Tapper ticked off a trio of Thompson weaknesses: a lackluster legislative record, policy positions on campaign finance and abortion that buck conservative orthodoxy, a non-acting career as an inside-the-Beltway lobbyist.

Thompson's strength, ABC's in-house political analyst Mark Halperin suggested, is that rivals John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani "have problems with the conservatives." And NBC's Tim Russert elaborated on how Thompson might match up: he might attract Giuliani supporters "more comfortable with his conservative credentials;" he might split the McCain base because he supported McCain in 2000; he might undercut Romney because "Romney looks less conservative." Russert summed up all that spin: "Every campaign believes they have an interest in the Thompson entry."

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