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Fred Thompson -- Best Thing That Ever Happened To John Mccain

Kate O'Beirne hints at an interesting point involving Fred Thompson and John McCain in the latest issue of National Review. (No free online access.) O'Bierne writes:

Some have predicted a "Fred fizzle" that [pollster] Scott Rasmussen is not yet ready to declare; John McCain is the candidate most likely to benefit from a second look by Fred Thompson's supporters, should it appear his candidacy is not as viable as they had hoped.

I'd go even further and say that Thompson could end up being the best thing that ever happened to McCain in this race. Thompson emerged as a serious candidate early this summer, just as McCain was imploding. I don't think it's a huge leap to say that a lot of Thompson's support came from Republicans who were abandoning McCain. (The two men had extremely similar voting records in the Senate, for one thing.) If, in turn, Thompson ends up fading and those supporters migrate back to McCain, then Thompson's candidacy will have served as a kind of holding pen for temporarily disaffected McCainiacs, which may turn out to be hugely important. Without Thompson in the race, all those former McCain supporters might have attached themselves to a more viable candidate, like Romney or Giuliani, making it much harder for McCain to reclaim them. It's not unlike the service Howard Dean performed for John Kerry in 2003, which I wrote about here.

--Noam Scheiber