The quote comes from the boss, rendering her verdict in the comments to the headline item on Politico’s account of his latest campaign stops. I actually winced while reading it, so astoundingly inept and almost antisocial does it make him sound. The narrative as of this morning is that he’s back and on fiah but wade through this and tell me the Fredheads aren’t pumping a dry well here.

There’s too much to excerpt but I have to quote this: “I’ve got a silly hat rule.” Wait until you see the context.

Update: I imported comments from the headlines item. Commenter “amish” notes that author Roger Simon is no fan of Fred but it’s not so much the commentary that’s damning, it’s the quotes. Mark Halperin, who was supposedly with Simon when all this went down, linked to the piece. If he thought it was unfair, he didn’t say so in his post.

Update: Bob Novak declares him the “X factor.”

# The “X factor” in this race is former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.). Most Iowa Republicans did not even mention his name in discussing candidates they supported or opposed. He simply does not register in the minds of potential GOP caucus-goers, but when asked about him, voters have little negative to say.

# Thompson has far more upside potential than any other Republican, and he is spending the entire final stretch in the Hawkeye State. Thompson has perhaps the most broadly conservative record of any candidate besides the three congressmen (see below). Many conservative Iowans currently settling for Romney, Giuliani or Huckabee (or planning a protest vote of sorts for one of the congressmen) could certainly jump on board with Thompson. If he defies his reputation as a lazy worker, he could make a spectacular surge here…

# This battle will hinge on Thompson’s performance down the stretch. If he excels, he could draw down Huckabee’s support significantly, and maybe Romney’s, too. If Thompson is as uninspired as he has been to date, Huckabee will probably win.

Update: Via Slublog, here’s the video of the scene at the firehouse. It’s not as awkward as it sounds in Politico but the “silly hat” was indeed politely declined. Click the image to watch.

fred-hat.jpg

Update: Sundries Shack notes that Simon’s account of the firehouse doesn’t quite square with the video: for one thing, Jeri Thompson doesn’t put the helmet on her own head, Fred puts it on her. I don’t think that detracts from the point about not putting the helmet on, but to the extent that it calls Simon’s credibility into question on other details, fair enough.