Bloomberg, Thompson Could Reshuffle Republican Primary

Potential Republican presidential candidates New York Gov. Michael Bloomberg and former Sen. Fred Thompson make shake up the field for the three front runners and the gang of seven who can't seem to make it out of single digits in recent polls. Mike Allen of Politico talks with Linda Wertheimer.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The Republican presidential candidates are looking at a couple of men who may shake things up for the three frontrunners and the gang of seven who can't seem to make it out of single digits in the recent polls.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has divorced the GOP, not to take up with the Democrats again but to test the waters as a possible independent candidate for president. Former Senator, current actor, Fred Thompson went to London to make a speech about the trans-Atlantic alliance and to meet with former Tory Prime Minister and conservative icon Margaret Thatcher. Thompson is expected to let us know sometime in July that he is a presidential candidate as well, which would bring us to 11 candidates on that side, give or take.

Joining us to talk about these and other developments is the Politico's chief political writer Mike Allen. Welcome.

Mr. MIKE ALLEN (Chief Political Writer, Politico): Hello, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: First of all, let's consider Mr. Bloomberg. We know that a third party candidate can wreak serious havoc in an election where there is an incumbent president. But I have a little list of third party candidates and one thing the recent ones have in common is that they did not win. Do you think Mr. Bloomberg might really consider such a thing?

Mr. ALLEN: He definitely would consider it. The people who are around him have laid out a very specific plan for it. But they do say that he doesn't want to be the crazy billionaire, that he would not do this as a kamikaze run. That he would go if he was convinced that there was an opportunity. I think that opportunity would take the form of extreme dissatisfaction with the nominees of the two parties and continuing dissatisfaction in the country.

WERTHEIMER: Is the assumption then that Mr. Bloomberg would hurt which party?

Mr. ALLEN: The assumption is that he would hurt Democrats more because I'd always thought there should be a little quote around the R, right? I think he was an R because that was the more logical opportunity to run in New York as the successor to Mayor Giuliani.

And especially if the Democratic nominee were Hillary Clinton we're told that he would really hurt her, that you would have another New Yorker, you would have a similar issue set - gun control, immigration, global warming - not the sort of issues that you would have on the Republican side.

WERTHEIMER: What about Fred Thompson? Now he is already shaking up the standings among the GOP candidates. What would his constituency be, do you think?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, Linda, right now, his constituency is people who don't care for any of the Republican nominees and over the last few months, very quietly, a quite sophisticated campaign has been put together that now has the president's nephew, George P. Bush in Texas raising money for Fred Thompson, that now has Liz Cheney, the vice president's elder daughter, advising him on foreign policy.

You have Mary Matalin, one of the best-known Republican strategists, advising him and so it's taken on a life of its own very quickly. This constituency out there, the FredHeads - as they enjoy being called - are fantastically energetic and the key is whether those excited people out on the Web can be turned into votes.

WERTHEIMER: What do you make of the notion that voters seem to be so easy to detach from candidates that they liked a lot last week?

Mr. ALLEN: You're right and that - it shows that people don't love these candidates. And you see that even with the staff. A lot of the Bush-Cheney veterans went to a candidate because they thought they would win. People are looking for the girl they don't have.

At the moment, they think it's Fred Thompson. But, Linda, a lot of people wonder is Fred Thompson the political version of an Internet stock? As soon as you get in, does that take away your halo? Because he's such a threat to these other candidates, they're getting ready to go at him very hard with questions about his past, and Fred Thompson is going to have a very difficult time living up to his publicity.

WERTHEIMER: Mike Allen is chief political writer for the Politico. Thanks very much for coming in.

Mr. ALLEN: Happy weekend, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: It's NPR News.

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