June 18, 2007 12:00 PM

1 So is he running or not? Keep an eye on his red pickup truck

He quit his role as D.A. Arthur Branch on Law & Order and formed an exploratory committee, prompting buzz he’ll soon announce his candidacy. But folks in Franklin, Tenn., prefer to monitor his mom’s driveway, where Thompson, 64, stores the ’90 Chevy he drove during his ’94 Senate race. If he opts to run, says his cousin Anne Morrow, “he’s gonna get the truck back out.”

2 He’s already been President!

The Alabama-born son of a used-car salesman has been in more than 20 movies, playing a CIA honcho, a Navy admiral and, yes, the Commander-in-Chief, most recently in HBO’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

3 Many conservatives love the guy

The former Republican senator from Tennessee is antiabortion, against gun control, tough on terror—plus “he was always a leader,” says childhood pal Jan Clifton. “When we played cowboys and Indians, he had to be the good guy, and we always did what Fred wanted to do.”

4 He could be changing diapers in the Oval Office

Will voters mind that Thompson is divorced from his childhood sweetheart and married to media consultant Jeri Kehn, 24 years his junior (they have a daughter, 3, and a son, 7 months)? One voter won’t—his ex, Sarah, who says she’ll campaign for him (they split in ’85 but are friendly).

5 Law & Order fans might be the real losers

If Thompson does run, NBC will likely stop airing episodes featuring his character (election laws would entitle other candidates to ask for equal time). The good news: Cable TV, where Law & Order reruns air, is probably exempt. Dum Dum!

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