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Thompson to announce presidential candidacy

Republican Fred Thompson will officially launch his presidential bid Sept. 6 in a webcast on his campaign site, followed by a five-day tour of early primary states. [!]
Former Senator and actor Fred Thompson speaks and attends the 108th National Convention Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
Former Republican Sen. and actor Fred Thompson, has long been expected to enter the presidential race.Larry W. Smith / EPA file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Republican Fred Thompson will officially launch his presidential bid Sept. 6 in a webcast on his campaign site, followed by a five-day tour of early primary states.

In a conference call with supporters Thursday, aides disclosed details about how the former Tennessee senator and "Law & Order" actor will formally enter the race.

Evening house parties will be held nationwide on Sept. 6. A tour of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will quickly follow, with later stops in Florida, and a homecoming event in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., on Sept. 15.

Next Wednesday, Thompson will appear on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" but he won't participate with his Republican rivals in a debate that same night in New Hampshire.

Thompson, 65, will try to cast himself as the most consistent mainstream conservative in the race.

He brings to the eight-man GOP field a right-leaning Senate voting record with a few digressions from GOP orthodoxy and a healthy dose of Hollywood star power. He is hoping to attract conservatives who are lukewarm about the current crop of candidates.

Earlier this year, Thompson saw his popularity soar in polls when he acknowledged he was considering a run. Since then, he's consistently ranked among the top Republicans in national polls and surveys in key states alike. In April, he disclosed that he was diagnosed in 2004 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a highly treatable form of cancer.

He has spent months "testing the waters" of a presidential campaign, playing coy with the public about his intentions even as he opened campaign offices, started raising money and hired a campaign staff. But his preliminary campaign stumbled this summer, fueling doubts that Thompson has what it takes to mount a challenge to top contenders Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Lagging behind his rivals
Organizationally, Thompson underwent a series of staff changes — including the replacement of his manager-in-waiting — and other departures amid consternation about the active role of Thompson's wife, Jeri. At the same time, little progress was made setting up organizations in key states.

Thompson also failed on the fundraising front to reach the $5 million goal his backers had set for the first month he sought to bring in cash, and he dramatically lags his top rivals in money. He reported a lackluster $3.5 million.

He also faced questions this summer about his career as a lobbyist, including his work for a family planning group seeking to relax an abortion rule and work on behalf of a Tennessee savings and loans in favor of legislation that loosened federal oversight.

His delayed entrance into the race — which at one point was to occur in July — has prompted rumblings in Washington and early primary states that he may have missed his window.

The campaign opted for an Internet announcement because aides contend Thompson will be able to showcase an ability to take his message directly to voters. He has made extensive use of the Internet in the run up to his formal entrance into the race, and an independent Web-based draft movement generated buzz.