As of last Friday morning, the day after the first GOP presidential debate, the breathlessness over the potential candidacy of former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) continued, full steam. Would he announce in Orange County, home to the birth of the Reagan Revolution?

But Thompson reportedly didn't wow them at the Lincoln Club, as expected, according to the mixed reviews. Thompson hit the right notes, talking about bipartisanship and strong leadership, but Bob Novak weighed in with what at this critical juncture is the Kiss of Death, calling Thompson's performance there "ordinary."

There is undoubtedly a strong apetite for a Thompson candidacy, and no matter how late he gets in, who will question that a celebrity like Thompson would have trouble raising the money required to build on the already intimidating name ID he can boast? He apparently can pass the test of social conservatives, unlike other top contenders, so that's nothing to fret. But as an article in the Washington Post pointed out this weekend, on several issues Thompson mirrors Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Not the least of these is campaign finance reform, and Thompson was an early champion of the restrictions his base abhors.

Thompson may have surged in the polls without ever taking a formal step, but once he does, Big Fred will need more than the wrapping if he wants to knock off his rivals and win the nomination. McCain and Rudy Giuliani are both running on messages that, despite their problems as candidates, are appealing to primary voters. To best them, Thompson needs to find one of his own.