Fred Thompson not yet running but gets newspaper endorsement

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Former Republican U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson has not yet said if he is a presidential candidate, but a Chattanooga editorial page has joined a "draft Fred" movement with an endorsement of the actor and attorney 19 months before the election.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press has two separate opinion pages, and the traditionally conservative side under the masthead of the Chattanooga Free Press published the endorsement editorial Monday, saying Thompson "has not declined" growing encouragement for him to seek the presidency.

"It is significant that while there are many actively seeking the presidency of the United States, there is one outstanding individual who is not - but is being sought because he has demonstrated many unique qualities of sound principle, possesses wisdom gained from proved experience, has admirable qualities of character and has displayed a cooperative spirit of good will that could inspire a great majority of Americans to unify enthusiastically to elect him," the editorial said.

Thompson, who is running third in a few national polls without doing anything more than acknowledging he was thinking about running, could not be reached for comment.

Republican U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga, identified in the editorial as being among leaders of the candidate draft movement, said Thompson plans to meet in two weeks with a group of about 60 members of Congress in Washington.

"Even the prospect of Fred Thompson running is the best choice in the Republican field," Wamp said. Wamp said that while Thompson has not said he is a candidate he "looks and sounds like somebody who is doing more than thinking about it."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)