While presumptive presidential candidate Fred Thompson is in hot water with some on the Right over his record in the 1990s on abortion and campaign finance reform, a contender for religious-right kingmaker is apparently lending his support to the actor and former senator. Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, increasingly preferred by reporters as a handicapper on GOP candidates’ efforts to woo the Religious Right, reportedly introduced Thompson at a critical speech before the elite Council for National Policy in May.
Land was a key figure in the right-wing takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s, and made abortion and homosexuality its political priorities as head of SBC’s Christian Life Commission, later the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the denomination’s lobbying arm. More recently, while still an outspoken advocate of far-right policy positions, Land spent more time establishing himself as a commentator on politics and religion.
Now, at another critical moment for Thompson’s efforts to win over the Right, Land has reemerged to talk up the candidate in religious media. Land told David Brody of Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network that “it is Fred Thompson’s race to lose.” Of the man he calls a “Southern-Fried Reagan,” Land said, “I have never seen anything like this grassroots swell for Thompson. I’m not speaking for Southern Baptists but I do believe I have my hand on the pulse of Southern Baptists and I think I know where the consensus is.”
And in World Magazine, Land emphasized the “red meat” appeal Thompson will have with primary voters. While anti-abortion activists complained to Land when he promised never to vote for Giuliani, he said, Thompson will end the frustration.
Land predicts the fussing will stop once the pro-life Thompson enters the race. He thinks evangelicals will flock to the Tennessee politician: “I think the Giuliani express will slow, stall, and go in reverse.”