Although he initially campaigned for office as a pro-choice Republican and was a key player in passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation so hated by conservatives, Fred Thompson is being urged to run for President next year by three of the nation’s top social conservative leaders.
At a breakfast in Washington DC this morning hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and Mark Earley of the Prison Fellowship voiced encouragement that the former Tennessee senator and star of TV’s “Law and Order” seek the Republican nomination. At the same time, Perkins and Earley — both of whom are past Republican office-holders — and Bauer — himself a candidate for President in 2000 — all voiced negativism about the chances of the GOP candidates in ’08 most closely identified with social conservatives: Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“I would urge [Thompson] to run,” Bauer told the reporters at the Monitor breakfast,”The more the merrier.” As to his self-characterization as pro-choice when he first ran for the Senate in 1994, Bauer said that Thompson “knew voters enough to vote consistently pro-life.” Bauer added that he expected Thompson, as a candidate for President, “to take a pro-life stand.” Regarding his role in passage of McCain-Feingold five years ago, Thompson was “not seen as a major linebacker” behind the controversial measure and “has done a lot of re-thinking of his support of McCain- Feingold.”
As Christians, Perkins pointed out “we’re very forgiving.” Thompson is saying, he believed, “he made a mistake” in backing McCain-Feingold and his position “is something that can be overlooked.” The FRC head and former Louisiana state legislator went on to note that Thompson’s pro-choice self-description notwithstanding, the former senator was “100%” on every major social issue to come before the Senate and recalled that Thompson was “not in accord” with his group on only two issues in his last year as senator.
“He would add to the mix,” predicted Perkins of a Thompson bid.
“Very attractive,” is how former Virginia Attorney General and ’01 gubernatorial candidate Earley described a Thompson candidacy in ’08, also voicing his hope that the TV and movie star gets into the race.
In expressing hopes for a Thompson candidacy, Bauer said that Huckabee and Brownback “haven’t been moving” in the Iowa caucuses or the race for money, which he called “the most important primary of all.” He did say both were “great on social issues but neither had made the case they would be a “wartime President.”
“Relative unknowns” was how Earley described Brownback and Huckabee. The Virginian felt that “unless you have an incredibly charismatic figure such as Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton” or have started early campaigning, one can’t be a significant player in the nomination sweepstakes. Huckabee and Brownback are “great guys,” but they both needed to “be out there longer.”
Perkins cited the difficulties both candidates have had “putting together an organization,” but quickly added “I hope they stay in the race.”