Are you ready for Fred 2012? Update: I probably won't run again, says Mitt

Not that he thinks Maverick’s going down in November, but … it never hurts to be prepared.

I’m faint with anticipation at the thought of a grassroots death match between Fred, Jindal, and Palin, with the four-year running knife fight between Mitt and Huck serving as subplot.

In an interview Thursday, Thompson acknowledged the mistakes of his campaign and conceded that his refusal to play the game the way it’s been played for years cost him. “I’ve gone my own way–sometimes to my own detriment,” Thompson says. “I discounted and underestimated the rulebook–Mitt and the Huck were raising money, forming PACs…” he says, his voice trailing off…

Now, in conjunction with the Republican National Convention next week in Minnesota, he is launching FredPac, a political action committee devoted to electing conservatives committed to “first principles.” And he is working on a book that sounds a lot like the kind of book a would-be presidential candidate might write. “I’m going to be talking about my views,” he said in an interview Thursday. “And it is going to be partly autobiographical–kind of an only-in-America story.”

So what’s the bottom line? “Where does all of that lead me–in terms of my country, my family, where we need to go?” he asks. Then he answers his own question. “Some of it will depend, of course, on who wins the election.”

Steve Hayes’s back-up plan if McCain, against all odds, somehow pulls it out: Director of National Intelligence. Exit question: Admit it. As much as you love the Barracuda and want to see her succeed, you’re nervous about the next two months and would swap in ol’ Fred if you could, right? Seasoned, vetted, steady hand, capable of making Biden’s knees buckle at the debate with only the choicest cracker-barrel proverbs. Why, we’d be guaranteed to lose the election by no more than four points! With Palin, we could lose by ten. Or, of course, win narrowly.

Update: Sounds like he did a dynamite job at his presser today in Minneapolis. I’ve been wondering why the GOP hasn’t mentioned Harry Truman more often as an analog to Palin’s own lack of national experience; Fred’s all over it now. Plus this:

Pushed by NEWSWEEK’s reporters and editors to say whether having a pregnant teenage daughter and five-month-old baby with Down syndrome at home will raise questions about Palin’s “priorities,” Thompson responded by questioning the questioners. “Would you be saying that about man running for office in her shoes?” he asked. “I really think you’re going to be surprised at how average people and women who are not necessarily political one way or another identify with her. I see nothing in this that will hurt Sarah Palin politically. I mean, I get that it’s a necessary part of the process to ask those questions. But we have to keep it fair. If we don’t keep it fair, it will redound to her benefit.” Judging by the reaction in the room–“I look around this table all these angry men, and I can’t believe they’re even asking this question,” quipped one female NEWSWEEKer–I have a feeling he’s right.

Update: Oh my. No knife-fight subplot?

Romney told reporters this morning that he does not want a cabinet position in a John McCain administration, saying that he would not relish being “soldiered by 27-year-olds in the White House,” as his father did during his days as HUD secretary.

“That is not an attractive position in my view,” Romney said, citing the experience of his dad, George Romney, who served as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon after his defeat in the 1968 presidential race. “I’ve seen it too close-hand to think that’s something for me.”

In a press conference after remarks to the Utah delegation, Romney said that he expects to remain in the public sector after the November election and will not return to the business world, as many have speculated. But he demurred when asked about a second try at the Oval Office.

“I do not anticipate doing it again,” he chuckled. “It’s hard to imagine doing that.”