Faith In Fred

The Register continues to look at 2008 presidential candidates, this time former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

WASHINGTON — Fred Thompson received an important endorsement recently from the National Right to Life Committee, although enthusiasm for his campaign has faded since his high poll numbers in September.

The pro-life organization announced its endorsement in November based on the Republican presidential candidate’s pro-life voting record as a former Tennessee senator.

“Fred Thompson has had a strong, consistent pro-life record throughout his political career,” said Wanda Franz, president of National Right to Life. Franz also mentioned that Thompson has consistently opposed Roe v. Wade, federally funded abortions, and embryonic stem-cell research.

The endorsement attracted additional interest in the Thompson campaign, but some pro-life activists widely criticized his recent comments concerning the human life amendment, a part of the Republican platform since the 1980s that effectively bans abortions at the federal level.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Tim Russert asked Thompson, “Could you run as a candidate on that platform, promising a human life amendment banning all abortions?” Thompson answered, “No.”

In response to criticism, Thompson reiterated his position on overturning Roe v. Wade and advocating for further restrictions on abortion, as the campaign sought to reassure pro-life supporters.

“My legal record is there, and that’s the way I would govern if I was president,” he told Russert. “I would take those same positions. No federal funding for abortion, nothing that would in any way encourage abortion.”

Joe Cella, director of strategic outreach and coalitions for the Thompson campaign commented further. “One of the goals of the campaign is protection from conception to natural death,” he said, “and the first step of that is to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

He cited the Republican Party Platform, which advocates for a “human life amendment” to the constitution banning all abortions. “Fred won’t overturn the platform as some have chatted about.”

The Democratic Party’s platform calls for federal laws that would take money withheld from taxpayers’ paychecks in order to pay to have children aborted.

Connie Mackey from the Family Research Council Action Committee noted that although Thompson had a good voting record, it is important to demonstrate conviction for the issue.

“When you are running for president, it isn’t just about your voting record, it is how you will use the bully pulpit to promote the sanctity of life,” she said, “We of course look for a president who demonstrates that he will fight for life.”

In recent debates, Thompson has sought to reassure voters of his resolve. During the CNN/YouTube debate on Nov. 28, Thompson repeated his position that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, adding that states could pass laws restricting abortions and punish doctors who performed them.

Thompson himself did not speak to the Register for this article.

Early Buzz

Last Spring, Thompson began to attract attention from religious voters as he appeared at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., following an appearance on Fox News earlier in the year that hinted at a possible run.

Although Thompson did not give a speech at the event, he attracted the attention of many voters who were curious about his possible run.

Cella, then the president of the event, remembers being attracted to Thompson’s message.

“Personally, I thought he was well positioned on the issues and had the leadership and gravitas that was lacking from the field,” Cella recalled. As Thompson drew closer to making an announcement, he hired Cella to take an official role in his campaign.

Thompson is a declared member of the Church of Christ, but rarely speaks about his religion on the campaign trail, which led Christian leaders such as Focus on the Family’s James Dobson to question his religious fervor.

“Fred prays to Jesus Christ and asks for the help to do what it right,” Cella said, adding that Thompson is “an intensely private person about his faith and modest when he discusses it.”

Although there is consensus that interest in the Thompson campaign seems to have abated, Cella said that he thinks Thompson’s platform continues to appeal to religious voters.

“Fred agrees with them on core social issues, and is the only consistent conservative that is electable,” he stated.

Mackey agreed that Thompson’s platform was worth considering, but added that there was not much time left before the early primaries.

“It’s wise for both pro-life and Catholic voters to take a very serious look at all of the candidates.”

Charlie Spiering writes from

Washington, D.C.