Former Sen. Fred Thompson’s new video response to Michael Moore says it all: Macho is the ticket in the GOP nominating contest for 2008. Turning to the camera with his cigar stuck in his mouth and his glasses ever so perfectly perched, Thompson talks tough to the favorite conservative bogeyman, sort of a Hollywood mano-a-mano. Their particular food fight is about Castro and Moore’s film about healthcare in Cuba but is irrelevant to the larger point — for Thompson to enter the race he realizes he has to have more swagger than Rudy.

How good a night would Rudy Giuliani have had at the second Republican debate if he hadn’t slammed Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) about, you guessed it, Sept. 11? It was a tailor-made moment for Rudy, and after wading through the weeds on abortion it was more than a lucky break, reminding Republicans just who needs to be in charge here.

Between the candidates each trying to speak more breathlessly than the one before him about the threat of radical Islam — and don’t forget, but for Sen. John McCain they all condoned torture — it’s clear that Tough on Terror is as critical for survival on the Republican side as hating the Iraq war is on the Democratic side.

Thompson, who disappointed his adoring fans with the lackluster performance at the Lincoln Club in California earlier this month, is without a message, but he landed on a moment. Sometimes it is all you need.