Actor Thompson joins race to the White House

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US actor Fred Thompson officially entered a wide-open Republican presidential race today, vowing to invigorate a dispirited Republican Party and promising to thwart another Clinton from capturing the presidency.

The former senator harkened to the Republican glory days of 1994 when he and other Republicans seized control of Congress and established an equal counterpoint to Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House. In the 2008 campaign, former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is among the leading Democratic candidates.

An actor for decades, Thompson is perhaps best known as the gruff district attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's Law & Order, and for his roles in more than a dozen movies.

Thompson, now an official candidate for the Republican nomination, has promised to return the party to better times.

"In 1992, we were down after a Clinton victory," Thompson said in a 15-minute Webcast that laid out the rationale for the candidacy he also declared on television talk show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

"In 1994, our conservative principles led us to a comeback and majority control of the Congress. Now, you don't want to have to come back from another Clinton victory. Our country needs us to win next year, and I am ready to lead that effort," he said.

Thompson also swiped at his leading Republican rivals, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, without naming them, saying: "In 1994, when I first ran, I advocated the same common-sense conservative positions that I hold today.

Thirteen years ago, Giuliani was a New York mayor who espoused liberal-to-moderate positions on social issues and endorsed Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo. Romney was a moderate challenging Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in liberal Massachusetts.

Today, some conservatives question Giuliani's and Romney's credentials - and Thompson sees an opening for his candidacy.