STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Over the weekend, Thompson said he's considering a run for the White House.
FRED THOMPSON: It's not really a reflection on the current field at all. As you know, some of them are very good friends of mine. I going to wait and see how it pans out, see how they do, how it develops.
INSKEEP: Joining us now is NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams for some analysis. Juan, good morning.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: I don't mean this as any negative reflection on Senator Hagel - he's obviously widely respected and well known - but given all the Republicans already running, why would he think he'd have a chance to win?
WILLIAMS: So he sees this as an opportunity to really stand out in the Republican field. He may even talk about the possibility of running as an independent.
INSKEEP: Well, if he does run, how would a candidate like that affect the rest of the field?
WILLIAMS: So you see there's an opportunity there. The question is whether or not he would be the one who would stand out as the lone opponent of the president's policies in Iraq.
INSKEEP: To what extent, Juan, is this campaign at the moment about the troubles of a person who's not running, President Bush, who had yet another bad week last week by some accounts?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think in large part now it's becoming much more of a referendum on President Bush, Steve. And in large part that's because, you know, he's not a help to any candidate in the field. He's not running, obviously, for reelection. Neither is his vice-president, Vice President Cheney. Nobody in his Cabinet. And so now people are beginning to react to him on the Republican side and that's the challenge. How does the Republican Party hope to fashion itself going into the '08 election, given the lack of popularity for this president, lack of support? They've got to create an image that would allow them the possibility of winning the White House.
INSKEEP: And very briefly, Democrats are positioning themselves as well in relation to the most important initiative the president had, the war in Iraq. They're trying to get support for a budget that would set a deadline to withdraw troops.
WILLIAMS: This week there will be discussions in the House Appropriations Committee about funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Democrats are trying to get 218 votes - the majority needed - to express their opposition going forward on the war and to say that the president has to set some sort of deadline. They're looking at the Iraq Study Group deadline of March '08.
INSKEEP: Analysis from NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams. Juan, good to talk with you this morning.
WILLIAMS: Always, Steve.
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