The Thompson Reviews Are In

I just attended Fred Thompson's first campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. The quick take: This is a whimper of a start.

I'm writing from the filing center that the Thompson campaign has set up in the Polk County Convention Complex, and the verdict from the grizzled and cynical Des Moines press corps is harsh: "Pathetic" was the word used by one vet. "Small" and "low energy" were the words used to describe the crowd.

Written, aides said, by Thompson himself and contained in notecards that the candidate took with him to the podium, the speech was unnaturally quiet and reserved. There were a few moments of stirring language that gave rise to some applause. But for the most part, it was serious and thoughtful and - boring?

That's Fred, say campaign aides. He's not a podium-pounding, voice-rising, preacher-like speaker. In fact, they said afterward, the opening words of his speech promised "a conversation" with voters - and that's what he offered.

Conversations are fine. But opening a campaign with a conversation is an interesting choice that might not play well on television screens - something that could be a first for the "Law & Order" star.

Fred Thompson seemed a bit more like an actor than a candidate 9/6 in Des Moines.

His good ol' boy persona certainly seemed genuine enough, but his speech had the cadence of a dramatic monologue, not a rallying cry for undecided voters. There were large gaps of not-so-dramatic silence between a few of his main points. And instead of building the crowd's energy to a roar throughout the speech, he seemed to inadvertantly lull them into a patriotic stupor. The crowd still cheered at the end, but not quite as loudly as on the way in.

Fred Thompson's announcement speech Thursday in Des Moines was underwhelming.

The former U.S. Senator and movie actor formally announced his long-awaited candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination at the Des Moines Convention Complex. It wasn't very impressive.

The crowd of a few hundred didn't seem enthused. Thompson's oratory didn't soar but was somewhat rambling.

He would have been better off just to repeat the announcement statement he posted on his web site. It is much better written and cogently delivered.