Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who previously questioned GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s viability among evangelical voters, now has told friends he cannot support the former Tennessee senator.
In an e-mail to friends, according to the Associated Press, Dobson said he won’t be supporting Thompson: “Not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”
Dobson raised questions about the strength of Thompson’s campaign and challenged his stance on issues important to evangelical Christians, for whom Dobson is widely considered an important voice.
“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson’s e-mail said.
As WND reported in March, Dobson was quoted by U.S. News and World Report saying, “Everyone knows [Thompson's] conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for, [but] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”
A spokesman for Focus on the Family issued a clarification, explaining Dobson did not mean to disparage Thompson and was “attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him.”
In his e-mail, Dobson wrote of Thompson: “He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”
A Focus on the Family spokesman told the AP Dobson wrote the e-mail, but he couldn’t comment because the statements were made by Dobson as an individual, not as a representative of Focus on the Family.
A spokeswoman for the Thompson campaign, Karen Hanretty, defended the candidate in an e-mail response to AP.
“Fred Thompson has a 100 percent pro-life voting record,” she wrote. “He believes strongly in returning authority to the levels of government closest to families and communities, protecting states from intrusion by the federal government and activist judges. We’re confident as voters get to know Fred, they’ll appreciate his conservative principles, and he is the one conservative in this race who can win the nomination and can go on to defeat the Democratic nominee.”
The Republican base has been split on Thompson, with some viewing him as an heir to President Reagan’s legacy and others, like Dobson, expressing concern about his stance on homosexual marriage and other social issues.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, for example, Thompson has said he would support a plan to prohibit states from imposing their marriage laws on other states. That’s far short of what many evangelicals seek: a federal amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
The e-mail included a news article referencing Thompson’s comment that he does not attend church regularly and won’t speak about his faith during the campaign. Those remarks prompted Dobson to write that his assumptions “about the former senator’s never having professed to be a Christian are turning out to be accurate in substance.”
Previously, in an exclusive column for WND, Dobson said he wouldn’t back former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani because of his “unapologetic” support for abortion on demand, and he later said he couldn’t back Sen. John McCain because of the Arizona senator’s opposition to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Thompson only recently confirmed his candidacy, immediately bouncing into the lead ahead of Giuliani in at least one poll. Rasmussen Reports’ Presidential Tracking Poll showed him favored by 26 percent of likely Republican primary voters right after his announcement. Giuliani, who has been the frontrunner most of the year, was in second with 22 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was a distant third at 13 percent.