Actor-politician Fred Thompson moves ahead with likely presidential candidacy

Fred Thompson, the former U.S. senator and "Law & Order" actor, is taking significant steps toward an expected summer entry into the crowded Republican presidential race.

His likely candidacy could give restless conservatives somewhere to turn.

A crucial Republican bloc, those voters have not fully embraced the leading contenders, giving Thompson what his backers argue is an opening for a "true conservative" who can win in November 2008.

The 64-year-old would bring a right-leaning Senate voting record and a dash of Hollywood star power given his many movie roles and TV stint as the gruff district attorney on NBC's popular crime drama.

With a Thompson bid, all three top-tier Republican candidates — Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney — could lose some measure of support and the seven underdogs could become even more irrelevant.
Thompson will make his first formal campaign move in the coming days, establishing an official organization to evaluate a White House campaign while launching a major fundraising drive on Monday, according to several Republicans with knowledge of his plans.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not public, these officials said Thompson may visit early primary states in late June and could officially enter the race as early as the first week in July.
For months, Thompson has openly flirted with a candidacy. He made several high-profile moves that pointed to a bid, including disclosing that he is in remission after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer.

His popularity in national polls spiked to double digits early in the year, but while he still fares well in surveys, his numbers have fallen following what some Republicans considered a subpar speech in early May in California.
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