The emerging new hope of Republicans determined to hold onto the White…

The emerging new hope of Republicans determined to hold onto the White House in 2008 was preparing last night to showcase himself as the alternative to the 10 candidates who have failed to capture the imaginations of conservative activists.

Fred Thompson, a former senator and a star of the television show Law and Order, was due to speak at a Republican dinner in Orange County, California, less than 100 miles away from the first 2008 Republican debate held a day earlier.

With eight months until the first 2008 presidential primaries and caucuses, and an already-packed field of GOP presidential hopefuls, Thompson’s entry into the campaign would dramatically reshape the race. Polls show that Thompson — although not yet a candidate — already places third behind Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The polls are evidence, some Republicans say, of just how many of the party’s faithful voters are hungry for new choices.

“He may have been the real winner of (Thursday’s) GOP debate,” said Pete Snyder, CEO of Washington D.C.-based New Media Strategies to the San Franciso Chronicle. Snyder said the advance buzz regarding Thompson’s Friday night appearance in Orange County was something other Republican candidates would love to have.

Still, some GOP insiders are reluctant to even talk about Thompson because he is stealing attention from the declared Republican candidates.

“He’s not a candidate,” California state Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said when asked about Thompson this week. “It’s like trying to comment on what the weather is going to be in another month.”

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