Thompson refuses to rush decision

Published May 11, 2007

TAMPA - Fred Thompson says he's in no hurry to decide whether to run for president, even as his potential opponents traverse the country raising millions in campaign money.

But he acknowledged that, with Florida's earlier Jan. 29 primary, the Sunshine State will play a more critical role than ever in determining who wins the Republican ticket.

The former Tennessee senator, who now plays a prosecutor on television's Law & Order, was in Tampa Thursday night addressing the Hillsborough County Bar Association Foundation in an event that was closed to reporters. It had been scheduled before there was public talk of a presidential bid.

He spoke briefly to a trio of reporters before the event.

Thompson said he believes he has plenty of time to get his message out if he runs.

"I think campaigns are too long," he said. "You don't need to be running for years and raising millions and millions of dollars."

Thompson said he will base his decision not on the other candidates, but on whether he thinks he is man for the job.

These times require that the country move in a "different and better" direction, he said. The federal government is dysfunctional, marked by squabbling and in need of someone who can get people behind him.

Moreover, he said government agencies don't work together, their computers can't share information, critical audits point out alarming shortcomings, borders aren't being adequately patrolled, port cargo isn't getting inspected and entitlement programs face enormous looming debt.

Asked about creating a catastrophic fund to buffer property owners from rising insurance costs, Thompson said, "That's Florida's issue." He said he hasn't looked into it, but might if he decides to run for president.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at 813 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.