Yes, my mention of the GOP was an allusion to that.
I like your theory. Its only weak link is that it requires believing the GOP has the street-smarts to conceive of it and the guts to pull it off. ;)
Thinking more about your theory....
The ‘stalking horse’ and the ‘Perot’ effect are not mutually exclusive. In its zeal to help Rudy, the GOP may unwittingly be helping McCain.
If you think about it, it doesn't take a conspiracy. All it takes is Fred Thompson making a calculation as to what would be the optimum leverage he can get from the political capital he has. If he wants a bigger governmental legacy than he has now, he calculates that he can leverage his resume to become Veep or AG or SCOTUS. The best way to levaerage his capital is to fake running, help out the eventual nominee, and seek a reward afterwards.
Thompson is not Reagan. Thompson is a Washington insider, having come up through the ranks of the senate as senate counsel. He well knows how Washington politics is played, and he is playing.
That does not mean he won't eventually run. But he'll wait to see if there is a big enough vacuum before he decides. Apparently, his 10 percent base is willing to give him all the time he needs, and that has benefits as well.