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Who Will Fred Hire? July 19, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in 2008 Presidential Primaries.

fred thompson hire


FITSNews – July 19, 2007 – Although he hasn’t formally announced his candidacy yet, there’s no doubt that former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is running for president. And why not? Most polls show him as either the frontrunner or co-frontrunner for the GOP nomination along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In fact, a recent South Carolina poll showed Thompson leading among all Republicans in this critical early primary state, despite the fact that the campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney have been aggressively planting seeds here for the better part of the last two years.

As Thompson inches closer to becoming an official candidate, FITSNews has learned that his team has been incredibly active in recent weeks looking for political talent to fill out a South Carolina staff. And not at all surprisingly, a number of South Carolina politicos have been incredibly active in their efforts to get the attention of Thompson aides like Dean Rice, who has made several trips to South Carolina scouting the local talent.

Given Thompson’s late start when compared to his major GOP rivals, the conventional wisdom was that the actor-politician would struggle finding the political veterans needed to compete in South Carolina – a state where operatives generally like to line up early in their respective camps and then go to the matresses against one another. With most of the state’s political players already committed to other candidates – or so the theory went, anyway – Thompson would be lucky to find the skilled political hands needed to staff the key positions of his South Carolina operation.

Several factors, however, have contributed to shatter that conventional wisdom. The first and most obvious is the recent implosion of the McCain campaign. Although the Arizona Senator turned in a decent fundraising effort here (and still places in second or third place in most South Carolina polls), two huge campaign layoffs have returned several former Straight Talk operatives to the free agent pool.

Also, Rudy Giuliani seems to have chosen by and large not to make a huge investment in South Carolina staff, essentially limiting his effort to Spartanburg PR executive Karen Floyd and former Sanford Deputy Jason Miller.

Additionally, his most recent personnel announcement consisted mostly of unknown, out-of-staters.

McCain’s layoffs and Giuliani’s decision not to aggressively scoop up dozens of native operatives is certainly part of the reason Thompson will find the local ground more fertile than expected, but the real reason seems to be that not as many Palmetto politicos staked themselves out early … certainly not as many as people initially assumed.

Sure, the endorsement parade of local elected officials has been hot and heavy (including multiple endorsements of McCain and Romney), but while many politicians hopped on board early, many of the more talented Republican politicos have adopted a “wait and see” approach to the GOP primary fight.

As far as we can tell, here are the top S.C.-based advisors already committed to a 2008 campaign:

Giuliani – Karen Floyd, Jason Miller, Braden Bunch
McCain – Richard Quinn, Rick Quinn, Jimmy Merrill, Bob McAlister (unpaid), Trey Walker, BJ Boling
Romney – Warren Tompkins, Terry Sullivan, Wesley Donehue, George Ramsey, Becky Fleming, Drew McKissick, Dee Benedict, Will Holly, Rob Yerger, McNeil Epps, Katie Baham, Franklin Buchanon
Huckabee – Mike Campbell, Adam Piper
Brownback – Hal Stevenson
Paul – Chris Lawton, Chris Golden

Obviously, the biggest of the uncommitted Palmetto State consultants is Rod Shealy, who after being left for dead in 2002 following a miserable election cycle has rebounded with big wins in 2006 and 2007. Shealy’s name has been bandied about as a possible advisor to both Giuliani and Thompson, but nothing official has come of his interactions with either campaign.

Other pure political consultants who are uncommitted (or available after the McCain layoffs) include former Sanford Communications Director Chris Drummond (previously McCain), Starboard Communications’ owner Walter Whetsell, Bonnie Blue PR owner Robert Cahaly (formerly with Duncan Hunter), Upstate-based political observer Chip Felkel, Charleston-based consultant Mark Lisella, Myrtle Beach-based consultant Tom Herron, SC Hotline owner Jeffrey Sewell, former David Beasley advisors Randy Page and Tony Denny and current House GOP Caucus communications director Jason Zacher.

Available staffers include former Straight Talk Express employees Chris Allen, Katherine Haltiwanger and Bryan Haskins, as well as Commerce spokeswoman and former State GOP mouthpiece Kara Borie, who was one of the primary grassroots architects of Gov. Mark Sanford’s insurgent win in the 2002 campaign.

Of those names, FITSNews has learned that the Thompson team has spoken directly with Whetsell and Felkel, although no deals have been inked.

Of those two consultants, Whetsell has more extensive campaign experience in recent years and a broader geographic reach, having run races in the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry in recent election cycles. Felkel’s influence is largely confined to the Upstate, and his recent involvement in major statewide races has been mostly limited to providing commentary.

There’s also evidence that Thompson’s advisors may also be looking outside of the typical “consultant loop” for South Carolina advice, as we keep hearing the names of high-profile lobbyists Larry Marchant and Fred Allen tossed out as possible Thompson targets.

Allen, a top fundraiser for Gov. Mark Sanford’s first campaign, says he’s with Giuliani.

“I’ve contributed to Mr. Giuliani and that’s who I’m supporting,” Allen told FITSNews.

Marchant, part of the immensely-effective political machine of former Gov. Carroll Campbell, couldn’t be reached for comment regarding his 2008 prospects, although many are speculating that he is on the Thompson shortlist given his extensive political experience, formidable fundraising contacts and successful lobbying practice.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Thompson people have given (Marchant) a call,” said Allen.

Incidentally, Marchant’s staff includes J.J. Darby, a lobbyist with extensive S.C. campaign experience and extended stints with both the State Republican Party and Gov. Mark Sanford’s office.

Stay tuned to FITSNews as operative signing season heats up …



1. Some one who cares - July 19, 2007

“Incidentally, Marchant’s staff includes J.J. Darby, a lobbyist with extensive S.C. campaign experience and extended stints with both the State Republican Party and Gov. Mark Sanford’s office”

How could you leave out uber-hottie Katie Dunning when you talk about those who work for Marchant? (I’m avoiding the obvious ‘staff’ joke here, or am I)

2. anonymous - July 19, 2007

Fred Thompson has already applied the first golden rule of hiring a political consultant. Never hire one who has been convicted of a felony.

That eliminates Will Folks and Rod Shealy. It’s time all S.C. politicians followed that rule. Remember, the two of them brought us Charlie Sharpe (convicted), TRav (indicted awaiting trial) and our lead footed Lieutenant minigovernor who has such a speeding problem that one of the last three officers who stopped him had to draw a weapon on him.

Birds of a feather…

3. Randy - July 19, 2007

Birds of a Feather…

Are your comments designed to influence anyone at all…or purely to give yourself pleasure as you sit quietly in the bedroom of your little trailer home…wishing you had a life outside of your little computer gig…

4. FITSNews - July 19, 2007

Care Bear,

Thanks for your message! We agree w/ you.


5. Earl Capps - July 19, 2007

Birds – if you’re trying to say that Rod Shealy had anything to do with their criminal activities, I’ll tell you that dog just don’t hunt. Lots of consultants have a bad apple or two, but that doesn’t make them bad people with something to hide.

6. Birds of a Feather - July 20, 2007

Always great to hear from you Mr. Randy. How have you been? It’s a double wide, Randy and it’s never quite here behind the truck stop.

So, what is your prejudice against people who live in trailers? We live a simple life, Randy. We gig fish, frogs and felons and live off the fruits of the land. We ain’t never been arrested, either. Never will.

We wish all our elected officials and political consultants could say the same thing. Wouldn’t it make SC a better place if we could expect our leaders and those trying to influence public opinion to stay out of jail and out of trouble with the police? Maybe that’ll happen, some day.

7. Give Me FITS - July 20, 2007

With all due respect, Anon does not live in a trailer home, but instead lives in his parents’ basement and has never kissed a girl — thus giving rise to the persistent rumor that he was the inspiration for the famous William Shatner soliloquy on SNL many years ago.

8. Earl Capps - July 20, 2007

Come on, don’t pick on Birds. After two divorces, there are times I’m sorry I ever kissed girls at all. I’ve even lived in a single-wide trailer … they’re not the worst places to live.

If he’s not pulling our legs about his lifestyle, to tell ya the truth, it don’t sound half-bad. Except I wouldn’t want to catch, much less cook, felons. I’m sure they would taste rather nasty.

9. schotline - July 20, 2007

We think the girls know more than they are letting on…

10. Henry - July 20, 2007

I think the girls really do need a vacation if they think Fred Thompson is mulling over whether to hire the owner of SCHotline as a consultant. I’m very confused as to how his name even appears on a list of ‘pure political consultants.’ Overall I really enjoyed the article.

11. Birds of a Feather - July 20, 2007

Earl, you’re right. We never said Rod was holding the money at the cock fights or holding a razor while rolling up a $100 dollar bill. .

And, he never broke his hand punching a wall in a State office in a fit of rage and never forced anyone to speed or charge a police officer.

And, we agree some consultants get a bad apple every now and then. But, in this case it looks like an orchard.

But, this blog is all about Will. Let’s be fair to him too.

Will was probably just in the wrong place taking the wrong under the able money when he got officially hired to that campaign.

It’s just a coincidence that Will has several worm holes all the way to his core. After all, the boy is not known for his good judgment (or even temper). …birds of a feather, flock to… >…never mind.

Next time you’re at the Farmer’s Market walk over to a box of apples that have been around a while. Pick up the first bad one you see.

Guess what you will probably find under it?

P.S. Giggin’ is good these days for fish, frogs and felons in S.C. So come on over to the double wide behind the truck stop and join us.

By the way, ‘Give me FITS’ has figured out our sexual orientation: http://atticfox.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/sweeney_pat.jpg

12. schotline - July 20, 2007


Waddabe da matter whitcha, still unemployed or getting ready to be?

I think I’ll take the rest of the day off, go to the pool and dream about giving up the consultancy to become a completely underpaid temporary worker for some wannabe campaign…

~Jeffrey Sewell
His Totally Overpaid Excellency of Data

13. Earl Capps - July 20, 2007

Birds – rather witty and incisive response there. Touche.

As to what is under that apple, I probably don’t want to know.

But I’m glad they figured you that you’re just Pat. Let me know which truck stop, and make sure that beer is cold. I’m not to particular about the brand, so long as the fish are biting … and you’re not biting.

Fair enough?

14. Henry - July 20, 2007

I just wanted to ask the FITS girls why the owner of SC Hotline would be on a list of ‘pure political consultants.’ I wasn’t aware of him being a listed consultant for any winning campaigns, or any campaigns period. The work ethic he described in the post above probably won’t do anything to change that situation. Like I said before, great article. Keep them coming!

15. Top Posts « WordPress.com - July 20, 2007

[…] Who Will Fred Hire? [image] THOMPSON TEAM LOOKING AT S.C. LANDSCAPE FOR POTENTIAL 2008 HIRES FITSNews – July 19, 2007 – Although he […] […]

16. Birds of a Feather - July 20, 2007


Thanks for the kind words. You make us feel special. Soon as we get a minute we’re going to make it a point to stop over at your blog and help you with your hit count a little. And you’re right; we should have been more clear that we were not implying Rod has been directly involved in any (recent) felony – that we know of. 🙂

Stop by any time. The back door stays unlocked, and there’s always a cooler full of cold beer on the back porch. We’re in the double wide with the Christmas lights still up. There’s a pickup and six dogs in the yard. We’re not hard to find. It’s the all night truck stop!

17. FITSNews - July 20, 2007


Seriously … get a room. We’re not running a gay dating service here.


18. Birds of A Feather Flock and Bad Apples - July 21, 2007

Leave it to homophobic will to come up with a post like that.

Earl just can’t resist a hottie like us.

19. schotline - July 21, 2007

Sorry got bored counting my cash… the girls have earned me, what were we talking about?

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