Fred Thompson Gears Up By: Mike Allen April 6, 2007 11:11 AM EST Fred Thompson, the âLaw & Orderâ actor and former senator from Tennessee, has moved beyond pondering a bid for the White House and begun assembling the nucleus of a campaign should he decide to run, according to people involved in the effort. Thompson has not yet decided to seek the Republican presidential nomination. But âhe is getting more serious every day,â said an adviser familiar with Thompson's plans. Thompsonâs coming-out as a candidate-in-waiting will be a May 4 appearance at the 45th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County in the heart of Ronald Reagan country in Southern California. The invitation was widely sought by aspiring Republicans, and his advisers expect considerable media attention around the visit. But there are no plans now for an announcement then. Thompson will also stoke speculation with a meeting of House Republicans April 18 at the Capitol Hill Club, organized by Rep Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), the most vocal promoter of a Thompson candidacy. More than 60 House Republicans have indicated they want to come to hear the former senator, according to organizers. Though Thompson has shown well in some polls since he said he was actively considering a presidential bid, the hurdles to such a late start are many. And some people who worked with him in the Senate question his willingness to do the brutal work of a national campaign. But friends and advisers say Thompson has been buoyed by the response so far at a time when many Republicans are openly expressing disappointment with their presidential field. âThe outreach to him has been so overwhelming that he is now starting to talk to people to really calibrate what it would take to run a successful campaign,ââ the adviser said. âHeâs talking to some of the top unaligned strategists and fundraisers. Heâs said: âIâm seriously considering it, and Iâm happy to hear your thoughts and ideas.ââ Thompson will not make a final decision until at least May and may delay any announcement until even later because he recognizes the benefits of being âa non-candidate candidate,â according to advisers. âAs soon as you announce, they start throwing spitballs, so why not wait?â said a Thompson friend involved in the discussions. The Sleuth column at WashingtonPost.com reported a recent lunch Thompson had with Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Ed Gillespie, and Thompson recently lunched at a Washington hotel with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Thompson also has met with other big Republican players, including some who work for other presidential campaigns, sources said. Thompson got 12 percent among Republicans in a recent USA Today-Gallup Poll, exceeded only by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Thompson has also done well in recent polls in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and California. The former senator, who did not seek reelection in 2002, lives in McLean, Va., and just finished a three-week stint filling in as host of Paul Harveyâs radio programs. He was in New York on Thursday for NBCâs âLaw and Order,â which wraps up taping for the season later this month. Thompsonâs backers say they recognize that a key hurdle to attracting establishment support will be questions about the fire in his belly. âThis accelerated action is his answer to those questions,â said a person who has talked with Thompson about the candidacy. If Thompson runs, heâs likely to stress his willingness to take on the biggest issues, including nuclear proliferation and the entitlement crisis, advisers said. âPeople are disappointed that for the last two presidencies â almost 20 years now â weâve seen people not held accountable and a cavalier attitude toward basic governmental responsibilities,â said the person who has talked to Thompson.