The Weekly Standard reported last night that he’d start “testing the waters” on June 4th by beginning to accept donations (and to steal some media thunder from the following day’s debate), but there was no word of when he might formally declare.

There is now.

Fred Dalton Thompson is planning to enter the presidential race over the Fourth of July holiday, announcing that week that he has already raised several million dollars and is being backed by insiders from the past three Republican administrations, Thompson advisers told The Politico…

Thompson’s formal announcement is planned for Nashville. Organizers say the red pickup truck that was a hallmark of Thompson’s first Senate race will begin showing up in Iowa and New Hampshire as an emblem of what they consider his folksy, populist appeal…

Thompson urged the supporters to muster a major show of financial force in early July, just after the June 30 deadline for second-quarter financial reports to the Federal Election Commission.

I can live with the hokiness of the pick-up truck, I guess, but if he starts riding horses I’m out of here.

Exit question: Can any man live up to this much hype or will Fred! = Flop!?

Update: Are the social cons ready to rejoice?

“A lot of conservatives have been struggling here to figure out where to go with a candidate that can keep the coalition together,” a former presidential candidate who is now president of the nonprofit American Values, Gary Bauer, told me yesterday evening, referring to the GOP alliance among economic, defense, and social conservatives. “I think Fred Thompson has a fairly decent chance of emerging as the candidate that can do that.”

I had to ask him to clarify whether this was an endorsement. He said it wasn’t.

I then asked whether Mr. Romney might also fit the bill.

“Mitt Romney is trying to fill that space,” Mr. Bauer said. “But he continues to wrestle with concerns about how recently and how sincerely he has come to those [socially conservative] positions.”

Not so fast — a chill wind is already blowing from MSNBC

On the issues, how is he any different than the front-runners? (A recent Washington Post story said his record was virtually identical to McCain’s.) And is he attracting GOPers’ attention because who he isn’t — rather than who he is? What, in short, makes him any different than Wes Clark was in 2003-4, sans the military medals?

Update: Jim Geraghty spoke to a Thompson advisor this morning and thinks Politico might have blown this one, which might be becoming a habit for them.

Just talked to a Thompson source I’ll call “TA3” (Thompson Associate 3). Much more coming shortly, but the first word was, there will not be a presidential announcement from Fred Thompson on July 4.

(Shockingly, the Politico got it wrong again.)

TA3: “There will be no July 4 announcement… There was some discussion of a June 4 beginning of fundraising; that’s the date checks will be collected. I suspect that’s where there was some confusion.”

The only problem with Jim’s theory: other Thompson advisors corroborated Politico’s report, at least partly, with the AP:

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were not public, said Thompson is dicussing plans for a campaign swing through various early primary states in late June, and is considering several options for a formal announcement should he ultimately decide to enter the race. They said that one scenario under discussion, among others, would have him officially announce his candidacy over the July 4 holiday.

I guess with no formal organization yet it’s hard for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing.

Update: WaPo’s Chris Cillizza rates the winners and losers from Thompson’s announcement. No surprise that Mitt, the current conservative standard-bearer, takes the worst of it.

Update: Politico 1, Geraghty 0. WaPo’s got its own article about the Thompson announcement out now and they appear to have independently confirmed the leanings towards a July 4th announcement with Fred’s advisors.