By Producer
NBC News
updated 6/2/2007 10:53:24 PM ET 2007-06-03T02:53:24

One day after filing papers to form a committee moving him closer to a presidential run, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson went before Virginia Republicans, stressing American values and renewed vigilance against what he called "the forces of evil."

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He warned against a rising tide of fundamentalist radicals who he said were targeting America.

"Islamic fundamentalists like nothing more than a mushroom cloud over an American city," he said.

Thompson, the 64-year-old lawyer-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned actor, on Friday formed a fundraising committee , Friends of Fred Thompson Inc., to allow him to raise money and hire a staff — but it would not require him to disclose his donors.

At what could be described as a coming out party Saturday night in Richmond, Thompson said, "After Washington, I longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood."

Thompson's message was clearly aimed at GOP conservatives, as he stressed immigration, tax cuts, and the "Hunt for a Red November."

Setting the stage for an announcement?
His speech contrasted from an earlier appearance before the Lincoln Club in Orange County, Calif., where Thompson did not stick to a script and spoke off the cuff. Some in the audience last month felt he was unfocussed.

But before Saturday's speech Thompson let it be known that he may not have the fire in the belly some other candidates claim. He said that he never really had the desire to run for the presidency.

"I've never desired to hold the office particularly," he told the Associated Press.

"In fact, not at all," he said, "but at this stage of things, I sometimes think I do desire the opportunity to do some of the things that only a president can do."

He ended his speech with a vague reference to his own presidential ambitions: "America is calling on us to provide great leaders; I think America is calling on us again."

So will Thompson announce he is a candidate for president?

"Doesn't mean that it won't be, but it certainly hasn't been decided that it will be," he told NBC News.

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