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Is Fred Thompson too late, or too early?

Former Sen. Fred D. Thompson, R-Tenn., chose the risk-free forum of Jay Leno's "Tonight" show Wednesday to drop the other shoe and formally announce he is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Skipping the more formal mode of a press conference, he avoided having to deal with unpleasant questions about his life as a Washington lobbyist, representing among others a family planning group in the 1990s that was trying to ease restrictions against abortion counseling. Thompson is selling himself as a strong pro-lifer.

  Thompson has also written on campaign questionnaires that abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy. Despite strong support from fiscal conservatives, Thompson's early fundraising has not been spectacular and his campaign has suffered from a high staff turnover.

  In Wednesday night's Republican debate in New Hampshire, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, questioned whether Thompson is willing to work hard enough. '"This is a nomination you have to earn. ... Nobody's going to grant it to you. Nobody's going to crown you,'" Giuliani said.

Leno kidded Thompson on the show, saying that Thompson's first marriage at the age of 17, "caused a huge scandal in his small hometown in Tennessee. Apparently he chose to marry outside the family."

-- Douglas Turner

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