One of the biggest (and longstanding) knocks against the former senator is that he doesn't have the heart for the race or the job. In short: He's lazy. A campaign that relies on pithy lines and the Internet feeds the lounge-chair image. It looks like he's trying to elevate laziness into a virtue. Several of Thompson's rivals, who know him from his time in Washington, elaborate on that theme. He wasn't known for his hard work in the Senate. Exhibit A, they say, was the 1997 campaign-finance hearings he chaired, which he started with a bang by promising grand disclosures but ended in a fizzle without uncovering much.
Fair or not, the laziness rap against Thompson is like the rap that former presidential hopeful Sen. George Allen isn't a genius. Or that John McCain is a hothead. It's an unresolved issue waiting for its moment to become a crisis for the campaign. Thompson's spokesman, Mark Corallo, brushes off critics with a line Ronald Reagan used when belittling what he considered his opponent's hysterical distortions: "There they go again."
The laziness charge can be deadly because however much voters like the notion of no-sweat solutions, they also want to be sure that their president is up at night worrying about terrorist attacks so they don't have to. They also like to know they're getting their money's worth from their public officials. After the early-to-bed Bush administration, this may be truer than ever.
The other problem with being a lazy candidate is that laziness makes you think you can wing it. This may explain Thompson's much-discussed (by Republicans anyway) lackluster performance at the California Lincoln Club in May. He tore up his speech and just ad-libbed. The lack of direction showed, at least as far as influential conservative columnist Robert Novak was concerned. Because Thompson's candidacy benefits so much from his performance abilities, like Barack Obama on the Democratic side, he pays a bigger price than other candidates if he doesn't consistently excite party activists each time he gets on stage.
Jessica McBride also notes potential problems for Thompson in abortion, as he was apparently pro-choice at one point back in 1994.
I'm not very concerned on that front. Thompson's voting record in the Senate was consistently pro-life; his conversion--if there was a conversion--was not a recent or politically contrived phenomenon (as opposed to, say, Mitt Romney) and is thus far more likely to be the genuine article. I think he can be trusted here.
It's still early, and as of yet the opposition hasn't really dug into Thompson. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it when they do.
I'll be watching.