Fred Thompson has enjoyed plenty of popularity as a non-candidate, but has already started to slip a bit since announcing his candidacy. As a real candidate, he is beginning to feel the scrutiny. Dr. James Dobson, an important spokesman for conservatives, hammered him as being weak on marriage, life, and basic campaign effort —a serious blow to his early appeal to social conservatives.
Tonight, Thompson gets to step into the ring in his first debate with GOP presidential candidates. Unfortunately for Thompson, debating is not his forte. Without the support of key conservative leaders, he has to shine in front of his sizable, but somewhat, shaky support base. This isn't a "do or die" situation for Thompson, but important, nevertheless. Tonight, he will need to let his base know he is THE conservative choice for president and a serious, long-term contender defending himself against accusations from detractors that he's a flash-in-the-pan glamour candidate. Tonight's the night for Thompson to impress.