When Fred Thompson began musing about running for president back in March, he admitted that if he was going to follow the old rules of the presidential game, it was too late. “I plan to follow my own rules,” he said. Indeed he has.

Reporters who were expecting a formal announcement in July that Mr. Thompson would be running will be disappointed. Recent news articles scrutinizing his record have convinced Thompson aides that they should delay the real media hazing the candidate is likely to undergo once the former Tennessee senator officially announces. “If Thompson doesn’t have a complete staff in place and everything buttoned down, the media will magnify every mistake and the campaign won’t be able to take full advantage of its debut,” says an advisor. That’s why an announcement now won’t come until August or even early September.

As for staff, the recent mass firings of workers from Senator John McCain’s campaign has provided a ready talent pool from which to hire lower-level workers. However, absorbing these people into a new campaign structure will take time and also require additional fundraising efforts. That’s another reason to wait.

Because Mr. Thompson is still in the “testing the waters” phase of his nascent presidential effort, he does not have to report fundraising totals until the end of the next reporting period, September 30. Despite rumors that cash has been slow coming in, Thompson aides insist fundraising has been going well, with a trip to meet with key New York City supporters organized by former Senator Al D’Amato scheduled for today.

But there are potential costs to delaying an announcement. Some donors will be reluctant until they are sure the candidate is committed. The media will no doubt razz him should he not be formally in the race and a participant in the next GOP debate, which is set for August 5 in Des Moines on ABC News. “He runs the risk of being criticized for not going toe to toe with his rivals, but then there’s the argument that voters just won’t care about that during the height of summer,” says one prominent Iowa journalist.

Thompson aides have a consistent answer when pressed as to when their man will actually enter the race. They note the rules of the game have changed this year, and that Mr. Thompson doesn’t mind making up a few of his own. Indeed, this appears to be the year of the non-candidate candidate, as exemplified by the looming presence of Al Gore, Mike Bloomberg and Mr. Thompson in the race — none of whom has formally announced.

”’John Fund is an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal and Opinion Journal.com. Subscribe to his political diary at”’ http://www.opinionjournal.com

”’HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to”’ mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com

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