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Fred and Jeri Thompson: Last Chance For Romance?

With an 8-month-old baby boy and a 4-year-old daughter, it might be tricky for Fred and Jeri Thompson -- the as-yet unofficial potential first couple -- to steal some candlelit alone time on this special day, their fifth wedding anniversary.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson and his wife, Jeri, arrive for a party at the Macedonian Embassy in Washington following the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner (AP photo)

But that's OK. Because from what we hear, Jeri would be just as happy to spend the day writing her hubby's presidential candidacy announcement speech.

One of the burning questions surrounding the Thompson camp (besides what day Fred will make his run official) is what role his wife will play in the campaign. Jeri Thompson, who at age 40 is 24 years younger than the actor-turned-senator-turned actor, is heavily involved in the day-to-day decision-making of the exploratory effort, according to knowledgeable sources.

It's little wonder, considering that Mrs. Thompson, whose maiden name is Kehn, is a high-powered political operative in her own right -- a lawyer who worked as an aide in the Senate and at the Republican National Committee. (Oh, and she was a member of the Naperville North High School "spirit team" in her native Illinois.)

"She is extremely bright politically," says one Thompson camp insider who asked not to be named. "She really knows this business. I think she is going to be incredibly helpful."

Everybody doesn't see it that way. Her hands-on approach to her husband's political operation is rubbing some the wrong way.

"She's running the campaign," grouses one veteran GOP political operative involved in the Draft Fred movement. "It's the No. 1 rule of politics: The wife can't be the campaign manager."

Playing a role is fine, says the unnamed operative, "but not calling all the day-to-day shots."

But Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo says, "It would be absurd to think that his wife Jeri ... would not be heavily involved in his thought process."

As for her official role, "She is his wife. That is her role. She also has been a well-known professional political strategist here in Washington."

Jeri Thompson's old friend Kellyanne Conway, the GOP talking head and pollster, describes the would-be first lady as "a sophisticated political mind" who "because of her devotion to her husband and kids, gives her a natural connection to millions of American women voters."

And, as we previously noted (in the last paragraph of this posting), Mrs. Thompson is going the extra mile to make that connection a bit stronger. After turning heads and dropping jaws at last year's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in her plunging blue sequin dress, she wore a conspicuously conservative black dress to this year's Radio-TV follies.

Conway dismisses criticism of Jeri's control over her husband's campaign as "blowharded bluster. Anyone who knows Senator Thompson knows that's not true."

Corallo suggests that Mrs. Thompson's critics are just jealous they're not calling the shots.

"People who are not involved in this effort but who want to be are starting to spread the rumors," he said. "There are a lot of people who claim to be a part of the effort who are not even tangentially involved."

As for how the Thompsons are spending their anniversary tonight, Corallo wouldn't say and Conway didn't know. Conway, however, said she noticed that former Sen. Thompson didn't have anything listed on his official schedule for the weekend.

Maybe they're spending one last romantic weekend together before the campaign goes official.

(More on Fred Thompson here.)

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 29, 2007; 4:18 PM ET
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