Thompson light on specifics in maiden N.H. trip

BEDFORD, - A day after pitching his conservative credentials down South, likely presidential hopeful Fred Thompson took a broader approach Thursday in his first trip to New Hampshire.

The former Tennessee senator and actor said the United States will again become a "beacon of inspiration" to the rest of the world if it returns to the core principles on which it was founded.

"I think we can form a new coalition of Republicans and independents and some Democrats," he said at a fundraiser for Republican state senators.

"We'll be a magnet. We won't have to tack left or right depending on the circumstances, or the primary season or whatnot. If we do the right thing, we'll be a magnet for people of all different kinds of beliefs about different kinds of issues but basically have their country's interests first."

On Wednesday, Thompson touched on his conservative credentials in South Carolina, defending his opposition to abortion rights and support for the war in Iraq.

But Thompson largely stayed away from specifics in his 9-minute New Hampshire speech, saying that while many of the nation's most pressing issues are obvious, others may crop up between now and the election. That means the fundamental beliefs a candidate holds are just as important as positions on specific issues, he said.

He said one of his "first principles" is keeping the federal government from encroaching on the authority of the states and that as a senator, he had two questions about each piece of legislation he faced. "Should the government be doing this, and if it should, at what level?"

"Folks understand it when you tell them how it is," he said. "I think they're ready for a little common sense in America."

He didn't mention the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary directly, but gave every indication that he will join the 10-man field led by Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

"I don't have any big announcement to make here tonight, but I will say this:

I plan on seeing a whole lot more of you," Thompson said, surrounded by dozens of "Thompson 2008" signs.

Lenora D'Amico of Manchester said she wished Thompson had spoken longer, but otherwise summed up his speech as "marvelous."

She said she was impressed with Thompson when he was in the Senate and has been disappointed in the other Republican candidates so far.

"I find them to be, for lack of a better term, wishy washy," she said. "They can't seem to stand their ground on anything."