It is opening day for the Republican primary debate season.

Technically, the Washington Post calls today's war of words between Republican hopefuls the "sixth major debate" of the campaign. However, in my mind, it seems to me like this group of candidates has debated many more times than that--but, at the same time, none of those events merit the adjective "major."

For all the bad press, speculation by pundits, and premature political obituaries for Fred Thompson, today kicks off the GOP canvass for 2008. And Fred is back to receive. If he fair catches, his game is over. If his opponents are able to meet him with such violent ferocity that Fred's helmet goes one way and the ball goes the other, his game is over. But, if Fred takes the ball and runs with it, GAME ON. And Fred doesn't need to take it all the way. He needs to run aggressively up the heart of the defense and take the ball up to about mid-field.

Okay. For all non-football fans, my apologies.

Bottom Line:

For the first time this political season, I plan to watch a Republican debate. That is significant. Fred is under intense pressure, for what he does today will set the tone for the rest of the scramble for nomination.

The Good News for Fred and his Fans:

1. None of his so-called disadvantages mean anything once the cameras start rolling. Fred is in total control of his destiny.

2. Fred is actually entering this debate with reduced expectations. For all the hype--most people are expecting the Darrell Hammond skit from over the weekend.

3. Fred is going to be much better than Darrell Hammond (who by the way seemed unable to move past his Dick Cheney persona to really grasp Fred; judge for yourself via YouTube here).

4. Fred is not debating Ronald Reagan or, even more intimidating, Newt Gingrich. He is debating Rudy, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Ron Paul. If he can keep Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter off camera--Thompson ought to look pretty good by comparison.

The headline tomorrow may very well read: THOMPSON CRACKS RACE!