Fred Thompson tries out a campaign theme on
As he studies a run for the GOP presidential nod, the former senator criticizes Democrats in Congress and takes a hard line on immigration reform.
RICHMOND, Va. — Republican Fred Thompson assailed Democrats and emphasized conservative stances Saturday, testing out a potential campaign pitch a day after taking a formal step toward a likely presidential candidacy.
In a speech to GOP loyalists, the former Tennessee senator and “Law & Order” actor lamented the country’s challenges and said that to overcome them, “we’re going to have to be more focused, we’re going to have be smarter and we’re going to have to be more determined and we’re going to have to be more together as a nation than we’ve ever been before.”
Then, he criticized Democrats.
“I listen to the Democratic congressional leaders and I hear them talking about how many (House and Senate) seats they’re going to pick up because of this war,” he said. “I listened to one of their presidential candidates talk about that this is a phony war, the war on terror. This is what passes for policy today in the Democratic party.”
That was a reference to Democrat John Edwards, who has challenged the idea of a global war on terror, calling it an ideological doctrine advanced by the Bush administration that has strained the U.S. military and emboldened terrorists.
Thompson also chided Democrats on President Bush’s tax cuts, saying, “The Democrats are hot after repealing all of that, the engine that’s driving this economy.”
In a half-hour speech to about 400 Republicans attending the Virginia GOP’s annual fundraising dinner, Thompson spoke of a strong defense, small federal government and lower taxes. On immigration, he took the hard line and drew the loudest applause of the night when he said, “You’ve got to secure the border first before you do anything else.”
An all-but-declared candidate, Thompson established a committee Friday to “test the waters” for a White House bid. The entity allows him to raise money, hire staff and gauge support without officially committing to a presidential campaign.
Thompson, 64, a Southerner with a right-leaning Senate record, would shake up an already unsettled race for the GOP nomination led by Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney.