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The Fred file: money and the Jeri factor

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell

Sources close to the presumptive campaign tell NBC News that Fred Thompson's fundraising is down "markedly." One claimed it has "slowed down big-time." The pace is described as a consequence of the delayed announcement to enter the race."The Friends of Fred, Inc." will report to the IRS its revenue by July 31st. Sources reveal to NBC News that number will be in the range of about $3 million. Five million dollars had been the talked-about June goal. Sources describe an early burst of donations in June and say the summer fundraising has fallen off. While additional fundraisers are planned, sources say the scheduling of fundraisers was "frozen" for a time while the team was going through some internal strains.

The Jeri Factor
Some sources describe the role of the presumed candidate's wife, Jeri, as vast and powerful.  Sources say "she's integrally involved in every decision" and that Fred Thompson has "set it up so everything goes through her." Critically, that was cast as "running it like a congressional campaign" and from the "kitchen table." 

Sources also describe Jeri favorably as smart, and that her level of involvement could be an asset. However, they also claim she is "reluctant" to shift to the eventual front-stage role she would have to assume as the candidate's spouse with her own events and public responsibilities. An interpretation of Jeri's role was described as a "scattershot management style" that "lacks prioritization."

At present, those close to the planning say Jeri is involved in hiring, salaries, schedule, office assignments at the two headquarters, and small details like the color of bumper stickers. Some sources defend her, adding that "it's easy to say she's controlling things."  Sources describe that she, like many in Washington, knows many people in politics. They acknowledge Jeri meets with and interviews senior staff candidates and is clearly a key adviser.

Another Staff Departure
Senior staffer J.T. Mastranadi is said to be out according to sources. Others near the Fred camp say word of Mastranadi's departure is "not accurate" and as of last evening "everything was fine." (But the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder has the campaign confirming Mastranadi's departure.)

Announcement Plans
Sources say September 4th in Nashville is the working plan, with Thompson possibly heading to South Carolina (if time permits) and then to New Hampshire for the September 5th GOP debate. The talk about a stop in Thompson's boyhood hometown seems unlikely. Yet sources acknowledge the launch could still change and that only a tiny group of advisers know the thinking.

Advisers contend it's better to have the "shake-ups and shake-downs now" than a month from now when they'd be in a "very different environment" with high scrutiny from media and other campaigns. One interpretation was, "a seamless pre-campaign does us no good if the official thing is a mess."

Structure And Organization
Roughly two dozen and "no more than 30" senior staffers are in place aside from those in state operations.

Advisers say Tom Collamore (who is gone now) was brought in for his organizational skills, and that he did set up the needed structure for two headquarters and hiring. Randy Enwright will be the political director and effectively running the operation. Former US Senator Spencer Abraham's role is being compared to the way Don Evans served George W. Bush as a confidant/counselor in 1999 and 2000.

The Fred team's internal research on the candidate to anticipate what opponents may dig up in their oppo shops has been going on for about a month and it's centered in Knoxville where the Senator's papers are housed.