I recall back when Fred was dillydallying about whether or when to get into the race, someone in or around his camp was asked if he had waited too long. He (I assume it was a he) said something along the lines of, "In the fall, nobody's going to be saying, 'he got in too late'."
I'm saying it. That wishy-washy start, combined with his, "Aw shucks, it doesn't really matter to me whether or not I get to be president," left a lot of voters in a position where they could only agree with him.
Fire in the belly: It matters in a campaign. Mr. Smith only ever gets to Washington -- in the real world -- when he wants it more than anything. Whatever the reason is, a candidate has to want it so bad that the race and the possibility of it all eclipses everything else.
Fred didn't really care. Voters responded in kind. I don't see how it could have been any different.