FRED THOMPSON: MITT ROMNEY WITHOUT THE HAIR. Fred Thompson's nascent presidential campaign has taken a big hit. Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that, in the early 1990s, he lobbied the George H. W. Bush administration -- on behalf of a pro-choice group -- to loosen the "gag rule" that barred federally-funded clinics from discussing abortions with clients. (See Paul Waldman's take here.) At first, Thompson's response was basically to close his eyes, cover his ears and repeat over and over that, no matter what the organization said, he never worked for them. Since many people from the organization clearly remember him, and his involvement is recorded in the minutes of meetings from the period, this approach just makes him look ridiculous.

Perhaps realizing this, Thompson has shifted to an even less promising approach. His campaign now interview with Sean Hannity, he said that "you need to separate a lawyer who is advocating a position from the position itself." Somehow I doubt James Dobson is going buy that.

Still it could be worse: John McCain has been reduced to blaming his recent campaign problems on "gay sweaters" his now-fired strategists forced him to wear.

Ezra recently argued that Thompson's success will depend on whether he "can attract enough immediate support to appear a safe choice." His complete inability to explain this particular bit of apostasy certainly won't help. It's hard to see what exactly his appeal over Mitt Romney is supposed to be now that his social conservative credentials have been compromised.

--Sam Boyd

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