INDIANOLA, Iowa – Fred Thompson, the candidate billing himself as the most consistent conservative in the crowded Republican field, has won the presidential endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, GOP officials said Monday.
The nod by the prominent anti-abortion group could boost the former Tennessee senator’s lackluster campaign. He has seen his poll numbers drop in recent weeks in Iowa and elsewhere as he has failed to become the consensus candidate of social conservatives still searching for someone to back.
“It speaks for itself,” an upbeat Thompson told reporters while campaigning here – even as he talked in hypothetical terms and declined to confirm the endorsement. “These are people who supported me in times past. I think it would be a perfectly natural thing to happen. I’ve had a 100 percent pro-life voting record in the United States Senate.”
Several Republicans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the formal endorsement is scheduled for today, disclosed the group’s decision.
The support comes after a span in which Thompson watched GOP competitors wrap up endorsements from prominent conservatives: Rudy Giuliani from Pat Robertson, Mitt Romney from Paul Weyrich, John McCain from Sen. Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee from Donald Wildmon.
At the same time, Thompson has seen his support slide in some of the first states to hold contests, most notably Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida.
On Monday, he shrugged off polls, particularly in Iowa. “I don’t think the poll numbers are low. I think that we’re doing fine,” Thompson told reporters, even as he acknowledged: “I haven’t been here as often as some.”
Earlier, in Oskaloosa, Thompson took an unnamed swipe at Giuliani, an abortion-rights backer who insists he will support judges who interpret the Constitution narrowly.
Thompson told a crowded coffeehouse: “I will never have to stand before you and say, ‘Well, I believe this way but I promise you that I’ll appoint judges that disagree with me.’ That don’t make any sense to me. Thought I heard that from a candidate the other day.”
While he boasts a solid Senate voting record against abortion, Thompson has faced criticism from some conservatives for what they consider conflicting past positions.
He has taken heat for his past work as a lobbyist for a family planning group that wanted to relax an abortion rule and has been criticized for a candidate questionnaire from his 1994 race that indicated he backed abortion rights in the first trimester. Last week, he rankled social conservatives when he said that while “life begins at conception,” he doesn’t support a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion.