This is Fred’s (no exclamation point anymore) big moment. His people have been canvassing the event handing out sheets outlining how his policies compare to Mitt and Rudy.

He’s obviously concerned about the perception that he’s not authentic on the family values issues, walking out with his wife and his daughter.

Fred is off to a slow start, to say the least. He is speaking extemporaneously, and not doing it particularly well. He became a little emphatic as he underscored his conservative voting record (especially on pro-life issues), but otherwise he is extraordinarily subdued. The line between “southern folksy charm” and “dull” is thin indeed, and crossed over into the latter.

Thompson said a lot of the right things to win over this voting block–he drove home his prolife record, the war, and got a standing ovation when he said that in his first hour he would shut the door on the oval office and pray for the wisdom to do what is right.

Fred’s people were out in force, chanting during his applause at the end of his speech and trying hard to rally louder applause during the speech itself. But they were hardly effective.

Look, I want to like Fred Thompson. I really do, but this was hardly an inspiring performance. “Lackluster” is the only word that comes to mind–it’s almost as though he can’t keep up the energy as a speaker for longer than ten minutes.

Update: Apparently, I’m off on my assessment of Thompson’s speech. Erick at RedState calls it “perhaps the best speech Fred has given.” Jim Geraghty says he “did what he needed to do,” but overall seems to give it a resounding “eh.”

Look, I’m in the target market for this event. I started off inclined toward Romney but have been moving away from that toward utter indecision in recent weeks. I want to make the argument that we should rally around the nominee regardless of who he is, but Joe has prompted enough mental consternation in me to make me reconsider that position thoroughly (which I’m in the process of doing).

I want to be won over this weekend–that is, after all, the main reason I came. But Fred’s speech didn’t do that, and consequently I disagree with Turnikey that he “did what he needed.” I will be deeply surprised if this audience is more enthusiastic about Fred now than they were before he spoke. Fred needs more than a few good soundbytes right now–he needs to invigorate the social conservatives around him. And his rambling, meandering speech with a few good moments is hardly enough to do so.
In other words, I’m still holding out hope for a strong performance from Romney and a Huckabee performance where he demonstrates his seriousness about foreign policy. If he could do that, he’ll get my vote for the primaries.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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