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Thompson gets key California nod, but not the Big One

The Freddy-come-lately of the Republican presidential field went to Sacramento today to announce that he'd wrapped up the official endorsement of an important California Republican -- Tom McClintock.

Now, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger riding high in the polls and less than a year after he romped to an easy election victory, some political observers might assume that his endorsement would be the valuable reason for Fred Thompson to fly cross-country to shake hands and pose together for pictures before a gathering of reporters including The Times' Dan Morain.

Did former Sen. Thompson ask the governor for his official nod? “No,” said Thompson before quickly moving on to the next question.

But Thompson beamed as he announced he had received the official blessing of a Republican who has lost four statewide races, most recently one for lieutenant governor in 2006. McClintock has not fared well when Democrats have a chance to vote on his fate.

On the other hand, the Thousand Oaks legislator has never lost a Republican primary. And that’s what the current GOP presidential race is about and why Thompson is trumpeting McClintock’s endorsement.
Yes, McClintock is obscure to a national audience. But don't forget, California’s trove of Republican convention delegates will be elected by congressional district. So, McClintock’s endorsement was eagerly sought.

Noting that McClintock is the second best-known Republican officeholder in California, Republican consultant Wayne C. Johnson said: “It is a great endorsement” because McClintock’s career has not been besmirched by “compromise.”

“A phone call from Tom McClintock is a good credentialer,” added Johnson, who used to do work for McClintock. “That is the chief role. He is a credible messenger.”

Thompson also announced that McClintock would be his state chairman. “Tom has always had courage,” he added. Three state senators including Jim Battin (R-La Quinta) and eight assemblymen also endorsed Thompson.

Likening Thompson to Ronald Reagan, McClintock said the former senator represents the “bold colors” of the Republican Party, not “pastels.” He added: “We can’t afford to get this election wrong.”

Of course, California Republicans being California Republicans, other party members disparaged McClintock's choice. "It is the most overrated endorsement in California," said a Schwarzenegger partisan, who is so sure of himself he sought anonymity.

--Andrew Malcolm

 
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This should come as no surprise, that McClintock couldn't wait to endorse Fred and that either Schwarzenegger wouldn't or Fred wasn't interested (or both). Seeing as how Tom McClintock is the only real conservative politician California has to offer, and Fred Thompson is the only real conservative the GOP has to offer, it's a perfect match. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, is more of a "crouching governor, hidden liberal" type. His endorsement wouldn't carry much weight with Republican voters in this state who are fed up with him and all but steaming about his impending tax increase. It might help nationally, but it's not Thompson's style to rely on the wings of others. He can win this on his own merit, and intends to do just that.

This should come as no surprise, that McClintock couldn't wait to endorse Fred and that either Schwarzenegger wouldn't or Fred wasn't interested (or both). Seeing as how Tom McClintock is the only real conservative politician California has to offer, and Fred Thompson is the only real conservative the GOP has to offer, it's a perfect match. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, is more of a "crouching governor, hidden liberal" type. His endorsement wouldn't carry much weight with Republican voters in this state who are fed up with him and all but steaming about his impending tax increase. It might help nationally, but it's not Thompson's style to rely on the wings of others. He can win this on his own merit, and intends to do just that.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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