Monday, July 16, 2007

Fred update

From U.S. News:

For months, conservative evangelical activists have been fretting over a Republican presidential field whose front-runners are the pro-abortion rights Rudy Giuliani, the formerly pro-gay rights Mitt Romney, and John McCain, who once lambasted Jerry Falwell. Activists took little consolation in more socially conservative candidates, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who seemed doomed by low name recognition. Now the Christian right is eyeing former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who is thought to be on the verge of entering the race. And Thompson is waging a rigorous behind-the-scenes effort to win its support.

U.S. News has learned that Thompson recently hired Bill Wichterman, who served as conservative outreach director for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Joseph Cella, president of a conservative Catholic group called Fidelis, to lead the effort. The aides are arranging more meetings between Thompson and conservative Christian leaders and have launched a rapid-response operation to fend off attacks on Thompson's conservative credentials.

The success of the effort is by no means ensured; in March, Focus on the Family's James Dobson told U.S. News that he doubted Thompson was really a Christian. But Dobson and Thompson have since talked, with Dobson rumored to be reassessing Thompson. And prominent social conservative Paul Weyrich, who met recently with Thompson and evangelical activists, said the former senator "was in agreement with us on almost everything."

For Thompson, the timing couldn't be better. McCain's campaign is reeling from staff departures and cutbacks, and Giuliani faces fierce opposition from Christian right leaders. So Thompson's team is betting that the GOP primaries will turn into what one adviser calls a "Thompson-Romney duel," since Romney is the one top-tier Republican lobbying hard for evangelical support. "If he gets strong support from evangelicals, Thompson could reshape the race," says the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life's John Green.

Thompson is emphasizing his eight-year record as a senator from Tennessee and his campaign endorsements from the National Right to Life Committee. "It didn't look like he was saying what a group of Christian consultants told him to say," says Harry Jackson, a black pastor who met recently with Thompson. "He seemed to be saying, 'I'm one of you.'"

Most Evangelical Christians will not support a candidate who radically opposes their values on core issues like abortion and gay marriage, but will line up with someone who tracks with them, but is still imperfect.

This is why Giuliani will never satisfy the religious right, but Thompson will, even if he doesn't go to church every Sunday and dated a lot of women when he was single. Especially since his former girlfriends are pretty much unanimous in saying that he is a fine, honorable man who would make a good president.

The fact that he is coming under attack from Democrats and their allies in the MSM shows that he is being increasingly seen as the man to beat and the man to fear. But if you look at the quality of the attacks you see a man who has remarkably little in his background to legitimately criticise. If you look at the amount of money which he has made as a lobbyist and divide that by the number of years he's been out of the Senate it becomes clear that he could have made more as a plumber. The mainstream press found so little to use against him there that they started digging into his sons activities, and again came up dry.

Even the accusation that he lobbied for a pro-abortion group turned out to be a dud. Not only doesn't he remember doing any work for that group no one he supposedly talked to on their behalf remembers him doing any such thing and while that group did hire the law firm did hire the firm that Thompson once worked for it turns out that Thompson wasn't working there at the time.

The attacks from the right don't hold up much better. I've seen accusations that he is a rabid gun-banner because he once voted for an anti-terrorism bill that included a pay raise for BATF agents (along with other Treasury Dept. law enforcement personnel like the Secret Service). All I can say is that if that's the best they can do they need to get used to saying "President Thompson".