Live from New York, to boot. It is, finally and officially, on:

Republican presidential contender Fred Thompson swipes at GOP rival Rudy Giuliani in a speech he plans to give Monday night on the former New York mayor’s home turf.

“Some think the way to beat the Democrats in November is to be more like them. I could not disagree more,” the one-time Tennessee senator says in remarks he is to deliver before the Conservative Party of New York.

“I believe that conservatives beat liberals only when we challenge their outdated positions, not embrace them. This is not a time for philosophical flexibility, it is a time to stand up for what we believe in,” Thompson adds…

“With me, what you see is what you get. I was a proud conservative yesterday, I remain one today, and I will be one tomorrow,” Thompson says.

That last line is as much a shot at Mitt as Rudy, thus confirming that this is Fred’s entry into the “real Republican” derby from this weekend. Politico sees an unstated alliance developing out of that between Giuliani and McCain contra Mitt, which makes sense insofar as they’re both centrists who need to hurdle the social con but not so much sense insofar as Fred’s much the bigger threat than Mitt is. Or is he? McCain needs a strong showing in Iowa or New Hampshire to resuscitate his campaign and Mitt’s the big dog in those states at the moment. Mitt’s also the only major candidate not to have received Dobson’s kiss of death; maybe they figure by knocking him out early, they take the religious right largely out of the equation in the primaries, thus boosting their own chances. That’s if you believe the religious right is going to come out strong for the Mormon candidate over the familiar southern Republican. Exit question: Anyone see that happening? Anyone?