UPDATED: Jonathan Martin provide some great analysis at POLITICO!

It’s almost official. Get out your flags. Buy an extra bag of fireworks. And two extra boxes of sparklers. During the Fourth of July festivities, Fred Thompson will announce he is running for President. (I love POLITICO! And cutie Mike Allen!)

For starters, all those folks looking for a return to the Reagan years will hitch their wagons. That’s a great thing because they vote in every election, are well acquainted with raising campaign cash, and they make up much of the Republican base. While Romney would appear to be heavily damaged by Thompson’s entrance into the race, the truth is many folks in the base have kept their powder dry waiting to see if an alternative would step into the light.

Thompson is that man.

Long considered the other white meat, or dark horse, is Newt. Former Speaker Gingrich’s attack of President Bush as “our Jimmy Carter” will be viewed as hyper-negative and an indicator he thinks our party will lose no-matter-what in 2008. This is not the way to win hearts & minds, and inspire us to get behind a “Draft Newt” effort. I grew up with Newt as my Congressman in the Hotlanta suburbs… and this angry guy is not the same man. I don’t know why he’s so bitter – but I don’t like the way it tastes. For being our ideas guy, he sounds like a defeatist.

Thompson has put together a solid team of well pedigreed pros, and everyone should expect defections from the Giuliani and McCain camps. Frankly, I believe McCain will be forced out of the first tier – and will hopefully do the right thing and endorse his friend, Fred Thompson.

The biggest loser is “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani. Republicans want star quality – and no one delivers that quite like Rudy. But they also want someone who has presidential bearing and a résumé worthy of hosting foreign leaders. Rudy probably has the best talking points – but that is not a substitute for the best policy. Forget social issues – Rudy’s not been tested in a statewide race and he’s made a lot of personal mistakes that will not go unchallenged in a general election.

Savvy Republicans know something Rudy’s true-believers do not know – or have forgotten – Negative ads will go up from Democrats. They’ll attack him for a 14 year marriage to his cousin. They’ll remind Republican voters how pro-Abortion Rudy remains. They will point to his estranged adult children and Rudy’s hostility during the divorce from wife number 2. They’ll point to the footprint of the World Trade Center and ask – how many lives might have been saved if Rudy had given those firefighters & police personnel working radios???

Politics is never about one day at a time, one baby step at a time. It is always about the big picture. It is about the last gladiator standing in the arena.

When women go to the polls, there is the “safety and security” factor. Which man makes us feel safest? Which man (I include Hillary in that moniker) will protect our nation, preserve our freedoms, and set the best example for teaching my civic-minded child responsibility??? We want a president that is careful, courageous, and stable. I’ve never heard anyone say Rudy’s a great strategic thinker. I’ve never heard anyone mention Mitt Romney as anything other than a good business guy. Great – let him follow Hank Paulson as the Secretary of Treasury.

The second tier folks have been jabbing and jousting for earned media, voter attention, and campaign cash. So far, Huckabee made a few headlines making fun of John Edwards and Jim Gilmore even commanded part of the South Carolina debate after he called the top tier “Rudy McRomney.” I wasn’t a fan of the tactic, I feel such things are best said by a spokesperson BUT – the move gave Gilmore some much needed TV time and the jab clearly ticked of Rudy more than anyone else. Gilmore was masterful – he revealed that Rudy has very thin skin. Gilmore should be Knighted for this act. Gilmore was actually working on Counter-terrorism BEFORE 9/11 – he didn’t just show up at the scene of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon (Gilmore was Governor of Virginia on 9/11) and get his act together for the cameras.

Gilmore’s act of finely honed political acumen forced Rudy’s hand. And Rudy did not disappoint. He showed that he likes to pick on the little guy (Ron Paul) and play the role of Big Man on Campus. While that schtick may work in New York politics, or jockeying for a woman’s attention in a bar at the Jersey shore… it won’t sit well with women who want their President to be a secure, self-assured, thoughtful and tough man.

HoweverWith all that said, Fred Thompson’s entrance into the presidenital race is bad new for the second tier guys. None of them have demonstrated the fundraising prowess necessary to be viable. None of these guys recognized the need to attract, hire & deploy fundraisers in California / Texas / New York / Florida. Any unaffiliated folks are likely to pitch in on faith for Thompson.

The second tier has met their fate. And his name is Fred Thompson. Gilmore, Duncan Hunter, Huckabee, and others are all running because there isn’t a “consistent conservative” in the race. Well, now there is – and they can all go home. The honeymoon period for Thompson has begun, he’ll raise a lot of money, and will scoop up everyone left on the field. The little boys can all go home to mommy – because the big Daddy just stepped on the field.

Fred Thompson is mentally tough, spiritually sound, and emotionally solid. On political and policy matters, he is a hardcore Republican – and Conservative. He may well be the only guy running that can re-unify the Republican Party without making everyone feel like they compromised their integrity.

Thompson is irresistible. He is positively spectacular. (Let the gushing begin…) With his baritone voice – the razor sharp wit – and his obvious state of fitness on his Romanesque frame – and his remarkable life story… he reminds me why I entered politics in the first place. He seems as if he is already a part of American History. There aren’t any skeletons… and the Democrats are scared to death of him. When Michael Moore picks on you – it’s a sign. When the mere mention of him drives The Huffington Post crowd berserk – it proves that Thompson is the man Democrats fear the most.

On the issues…. Thompson will draw a broad cross section of Republican supporters. He is the total package. When Thompson speaks, I can finally see beyond the Bush years… beyond Iraq… beyond the political correctness and expediency of Hillary and the Congress… The American President is supposed to lead us. It’s not a reality TV game show. It is serious business. Who do you want negotiating with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, the United Nations, Mexico, the Congress??? Who do you trust to preserve our nation? Too often the political discourse devolves into a game of kickball – rather than a consideration of what is best for our Republic.

With his wife Jeri at his side, and their two young children in tow… I can almost see a new Camelot. A new day… and an improved America.

Fred Thompson has my vote.

— Media Lizzy

International Herald Tribune: Fred Thompson moving ahead with likely candidacy
Human Events: Fred Thompson is Running
Wilmington Star: Handful of SC lawmakers urge Fred Thompson to run for White House
Hendersonville Times News: Fred Thompson has what it takes to win
The Gate: Fred Thompson, Making Conservatives Happy?
Washington Post: Fred’s In, Who’s Hurt?
Blogger News Network: Fred Dalton Thompson Stands Up
Des Moines Register: Fred Thompson reaches out to Iowa GOP

Naughtiness from the Wonkette: Rejoice, Republicans: Divorced Hollywood Actor Will Be Your Nominee!

National Review: Thompson on the War on Terror (Audio)
Great bit on Hannity (Audio)
Thompson’s Blunt Commentary in the NATIONAL REVIEW

Thompson for US Senate ad in 1994 still stands up:

Photo Credit: AP/Politico