My Mantra: Nobody Knows Anything.

But everybody says Fred Thompson is going to get into this race within the month. Let's assume they are right.

Where are we? And what does the advent of Thompson mean?

John McCain continues to spin his wheels in the soft, wet turf of the Republican primary. Although he presents legitimate conservative bona fides, the stalwarts within the movement cannot forgive his transgressions concerning campaign finance reform, a weak stomach on tax cuts and, now the final mortal blow to his chance at the nomination, his politically disastrous position on the current immigration reform.

Mitt Romney continues to raise a lot of money, look good on TV, perform well in the debates and court conservatives. Nevertheless, the former-Massachusetts governor has not captured the imagination of the nation, the party or even insomniac C-SPAN junkies. Significantly, Hugh Hewitt and Dean Barnett like him. No matter, he still looks like an also-ran to me.

Rudy continues to lead in the polls. He continues to enjoy respect and admiration from almost every Republican in America. However, we continue to ask the same question: can he overcome his unorthodoxy regarding abortion and gun control? Multiple marriages? Rudy is a long shot--but I tend to think he is a viable candidate. I think he could win the national primary in January and have as good a chance as anybody else to win in November.

Newt Gingrich continues to offer brilliant ideas and canny directions from the sidelines, desperately yearning for the fans to demand his insertion into the game. Will they? Probably not. Will he strap on a helmet and run onto the field of his own accord? Maybe--but I am betting against it. He is smart enough to avoid a humiliating rebuff. The race would need to be in near chaos this fall for Newt to have a chance.

Fred Thompson continues to grow in strength as a shadow candidate. He is a conservative (which is what is needed, we are told constantly). He is actually a taller and statelier version of McCain.

However, watching Thompson tonight on C-SPAN speaking to Republicans in Virginia, I am reminded that he is not as smooth as most of us are expecting. He is not Ronald Reagan--not even close. Of course, Ronald Reagan was a 100-year candidate. Thompson can hope to be as good as Clinton or Kennedy, with some practice, which is not too bad.

Also, to Thompson's advantage, his rougher-than-expected style will cut against the expectation of a glitzy movie star. He is going to run as a populist, conservative, log cabin (in the c.19 sense) kind of man of the people speaking common sense in plain language. It is a time-tested winning persona.

What might happen? Thompson may jump in here next month and rout the opposition. We'll see. On the other hand, some revelation, some concern about his health, some revealing gaffe, or just the fickleness of the modern electorate may cut his lofty stature down to size. Nobody knows.

If Thompson wins the nomination, can he win in November? Yes. Unlikely--but not impossible. The Democrats have the inside track. For myriad reasons, it is a Democratic year. A lot of extraordinary things must happen between now and the fall of 2008 for the Republicans to have a chance. But nothing is set in stone at this point. Stranger things have happened in American politics.