Dobson Seeks to Put Kibosh on Thompson’s Bid

As we noted the other day, James Dobson is a member of The Arlington Group, a secretive coalition of right-wing powerhouses that is throwing around its political power by interviewing presidential candidates in an attempt to anoint the eventual GOP nominee by granting said nominee its seal-of-approval.

At the same time, various polls show TV star and former Senator Fred Thompson doing quite well among Republican voters despite the fact that he is not even officially running. That apparently was frightening enough to James Dobson to compel him to make an unsolicited phone call to Dan Gilgoff, author of “The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War,” in order to decree that Thompson’s candidacy is unacceptable because Dobson doesn’t “think he’s a Christian”:

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.

“Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson said of Thompson. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression,” Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson’s characterization of the former Tennessee senator. “Thompson is indeed a Christian,” he said. “He was baptized into the Church of Christ.”

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson’s claim. He said that, while Dobson didn’t believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless “has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith.”

“We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians,” Schneeberger added. “Dr. Dobson wasn’t expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to ‘read the tea leaves’ about such a possibility.”

Dobson went on to say that Gov. Mitt Romney can’t win because “there are conservative Christians who will not vote for him because of his Mormon faith,” and that “the current excitement over Giuliani” will soon fade.

The only potential nominee for whom Dobson had any praise was Newt Gingrich, who just so happened to appear on Dobson’s radio program a few weeks ago where he confessed to having cheated on his wife during the impeachment of President Clinton and claimed to have sought forgiveness.

While stating that he wasn’t endorsing anyone, Dobson praised Gingrich as the “brightest guy out there” and “the most articulate politician on the scene today.”

Despite Dobson’s claims to the contrary, it is hard to see how this unsolicited call to Gilgoff could be considered anything but an open declaration of support for Gingrich.

Dobson has already said that he will not vote for Sen. John McCain, accused Thompson of not being a Christian, made clear that he doesn’t think Romney can win, and declared that Giuliani’s campaign is doomed. And since he is not out there praising third-tier candidates such as Sam Brownback or Mike Huckabee, that pretty much leaves Gingrich as Dobson’s only choice.