Preemption, baby: it’s not just for foreign policy anymore.

Democratic strategists say Thompson’s populist style and show-biz allure could prove extremely appealing in a general election at a time when voters are so down on Washington. So the party has launched a preemptive campaign against him that includes a DNC fundraising e-mail branding Thompson, “The inside-outsider.”…

“Remember the Republican culture of corruption?” the letter asks. “The revolving door of Republican politicians moving in and out of top political offices and Washington, D.C., lobbying firms? That’s Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson. For years, acting wasn’t the ‘Law & Order’ star’s profession — it was a hobby. In the real world, Thompson has made a fortune in a decades-long career as a Washington lobbyist. And just this month, as part of his role as the ultimate Washington insider, Thompson offered to host yet another fundraising event for Scooter Libby’s legal defense fund. Thompson has been vocal in his support of Libby, saying that he would ‘absolutely’ pardon him. As he runs for president, he’ll try his hardest to hide the truth from the American people. And we need to stop him. Support our efforts to get the truth out about Fred Thompson.”…

Another DNC research report sketches likely lines of attack on Thompson: “reliable supporter, defender of President Bush,” “staunch supporter of Scooter Libby,” “key role in Bush Supreme Court nominations,” “already has a flip-flop problem,” “ill-equipped for the campaign,” “a thin Senate record, questions of ‘work ethic’, ” “controversial legal clients may cause problems,” “lobbying careers full of land mines.”

Working to influence news coverage, the DNC also recently began circulating a “research document” with the headline, “MAJOR LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF SEN. FRED DALTON THOMPSON (1994-2002).” Then the page is blank until the line, “Paid for by the Democratic National Committee.”

Wouldn’t you know it, the attack comes on the very day the Associated Press decides to “look at” Fred’s past as a lobbyist. What are the odds?

Update: Star GOP pollster Frank Luntz A strategist for a rival campaign sounds the alarm:

“Fred is a concept, not a candidate,” says the strategist. “He is a vessel for what people want to believe in.”

Update: “God save the Queen.”

Update: I totally misread the U.S. News quote up above. It wasn’t Luntz who said that, it was a rival campaign strategist. My apologies.