Thompson and the Religious Right
According to US News and World Report, Fred Thompson’s “front porch” campaign for President has recently been reaching out to gather support from a group that any Republican will need to gain the nomination; the Christian right:
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.
Wichterman is a Washington insider with tremendous connections to social conservatives. And Joseph Cella has close ties to most of the primary anti-abortion groups in the country. Thompson could hardly have done better if he is truly seeking to reach out and receive the endorsement of the religous right.
Just how valuable his new hires are proving themselves to be could be seen in the response to last week’s hit piece in the Los Angeles Times about Thompson’s lobbying for a pro-choice group. According to the article linked above, “Thompson’s Christian outreach team quickly E-mailed a detailed denial to conservative leaders.” Within hours, as other reporters sought reaction to the article from evangelical activists, they were able to use Thompson’s talking points in response.
Whether the Christian right will endorse Thompson en masse remains to be seen. But his efforts so far have shown that the former Senator knows how to build bridges to those who can do him the most good.
(Hat Tip: Ed Lasky)