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You can go to bed early tonight

June 12, 2007 |  7:55 pm

Go on ahead to bed now, Fred Thompson does not announce his candidacy on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" tonight. The late-night show, yet to be broadcast in the Eastern time zone, is a required stop for candidates to show their casual side and Arnold Schwarzenegger even announced his gubernatorial candidacy there.

But Thompson is still doing his pre-campaign striptease, which has worked out well for him in the polls, as Top of the Ticket wrote yesterday afternoon and Michael Finnegan wrote in this morning's Times. Testing the waters, it's called. Leno asked the former Tennessee senator how he found the waters. "Warm," said Thompson.

Asked by Leno during the Burbank taping if he'd like the nation's top job, the former "Law & Order" actor said, "I've never craved the job of president, but I want to do some things that only a president can do. So the answer is yes."

At one point, as all candidates are advised to do by their advisors, Thompson said he had to plug his website. So he did. Then he sheepishly looked at the host and said, "You can't have any shame in this business."

Thompson called campaigns "entirely too long" and said he thought Hillary Clinton was "trying to balance...her prior positions with the new requirements of politics in the Democratic Party."

Then the former GOP senator uttered one of his now stock lines: "I often say after eight years in Washington, I longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood."

Say goodnight, Gracie.

--Andrew Malcolm

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