UPDATED: Thompson set to get Right to Life endorsement
Fred Thompson, the newest candidate in the Republican presidential field who touts himself as the "consistent conservative," is about to get the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee.
When he finally launched his campaign Sept. 5, Thompson was seen as the conservatives' great hope, a Reaganesque character who could play the role of the strong presidential authority figure as he's done on TV and in movies. But his light campaign schedule and laid-back style -- some might call it soporific -- have disappointed many. Now, The Times' Michael Finnegan reports here, he's trying to change that.
The Times' Stephanie Simon has now confirmed the endorsement will come tomorrow and she'll have a complete story on this website tonight and in Tuesday's print editions. The endorsement by the committee with some 3,000 chapters nationwide could give a badly needed shot of energy to a campaign whose poll numbers have dipped almost since his announcement.
The conservative wing of the Republican Party appears split these days, with indications that heightened concerns over terrorism and national security may be trumping the traditional party litmus test of abortion opposition. Last week, televangelist and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson, who's held a life-long opposition to abortion and gay unions, endorsed Rudy Giuliani, who supports both. Previously, Bob Jones III, head of the conservative Bob Jones University, endorsed Mitt Romney, who holds a pro-life stance despite flirtations with accepting Roe vs. Wade.
Other conservative religious leaders such as James Dobson, who's expressed dissatisfaction with GOP candidates including Giuliani, John McCain and Thompson, have threatened to mount a third-party conservative candidate.
And today Simon found some anti-abortion people bothered by the impending endorsement. Jill Stanek, a leading antiabortion blogger (and columnist for World Net Daily), said National Right to Life may be more interested in backing a winning candidate than in upholding principle. "There's a lot of suspicion in the pro-life movement that they're Republicans first and pro-life second," she said, "that they're making picks that are politically motivated."
Troy Newman, who runs the antiabortion group Operation Rescue, said he could never support a candidate who would leave decisions on abortion laws to the states, as Thompson recently said he would. "Pro-life people believe abortion is an act that takes the life of a human being," Newman said. "If he wants to leave it to the states, that seems to indicate he's not truly pro-life." Newman hasn't yet decided who he will endorse. Right now he's leaning toward either Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul.
Last week in a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Huckabee assailed Thompson's stance that abortion law should be left up to the states. "You can't have a different morality between New York and Nevada, between Iowa and Indiana," Huckabee told an enthusiastic crowd of 150. He said such an approach -- on the issue of slavery -- was what led to the Civil War. Deferring to the states, he added, would be akin to declaring that "a human life has a different value in different states."
-- Andrew Malcolm