Dobson: Thompson’s No Christian

Fred doesn’t pass muster with the head of Focus on the Family:

“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.

Steve Forbes Endorses Rudy

I’ve always argued when making the case for Giuliani’s path to the nomination is that in order to overcome some of his rifts with conservatives on social issues, in addition to emphasizing national security, he’ll need set himself apart as a true economic conservative. Clearly, this is a strategy Giuliani is embarking on. Deroy Murdock reports that two weeks ago, Giuliani opened up a talk to Manhattan supporters by saying that he just re-read “Free to Choose” by Milton and Rose Friedman, and said that the GOP needed to emphasize those ideas. Earlier this week, he was on Kudlow, declaring, “I don’t like taxes. I don’t know how to make that any clearer” and railing against socialized medicine and government regulation. Today, his campaign announces this endorsement by Forbes, who will serve as a national campaign co-chair and senior policy advisor. While all Republican candidates are going to talk about cutting taxes and restraining spending, what Giuliani will have to be able to convince voters of is that he’s different because he actually accomplished those things in the most hostile of all environments for such ideas–New York City. He’s going to have to find a way to transpose his tough guy image to fiscal issues, so Republican voters think, this is a guy who confroted the mob, who fought crime in NYC, who was tough as nails on 9/11, if anybody can actually restrain spending, it’s this guy.

McCain Talks to Bloggers

Just got off a 30-minute bloggers conference call with John McCain. He said he intends to hold such calls regularly, and in the future make himself available for an hour at a time. The conservative blogosphere has been especially harsh terrain for McCain over the years, so it’s a good idea for him to be reaching out.

Most of the discussion focused on Iraq, which is one issue that (from a hawk’s perspective), he’s been rock solid on. McCain said that the surge is showing signs of “significant progress,” even with only two of the expected five brigades in Baghdad. He spoke of normal life returning to some of the capital’s neighborhoods, reports that religious leaders in Anbar province are aligning themselves with us, and Iraqi soldiers being imbedded with our own. He blasted the Democratic plan, saying, “The consequences of failure are catastrophic, we will be back, the sponsors of this legislation don’t tell us what’s gonna happen when we ‘withdraw.'”

He said of the Democrats that, “They’re being driven by Move.org. They’ve overreached.” McCain also said he hopes that when President Bush announces his expected veto of the legislation, he describes the $20 billion of pork projects that were tacked on.

I asked McCain whether he was worried that if the surge shows early signs of progress, people in Washington would see that as an opportunity to declare victory and come home, even before the surge is able to be fully effective. He responded that it was his second biggest fear, after the surge not being given a chance in the first place. “I continually hear people in the administration, and even in the military, say ‘three months, six months, well, maybe six months…It took us four years to get into this state we’re in, and here we are after two months expecting miracles.”

On other matters, he was asked about the tough criticism he has received from conservatives, especially relative to Rudy Giuliani, and McCain joked, “life isn’t fair.” He said there have been a lot of stories out that he’s “too old, too tired” and that he panders, and said that’s why he’s getting back on the bus, attending town hall meetings, and taking his case directly to voters. He was complimentary toward Giuliani: “Rudy Giuliani with great justification is very highly regarded by American people because of his obvious great carrying out of his duties on 9/11.”

He also took the opportunity to once again lower expectations about his campaign’s fundraising efforts: “I’m unhappy with my performance in fundraising, which is my fault, because I don’t like asking people for money. I’m trying to get over that.”

UPDATE: More from James Joyner, Matt Lewis, Ryan Sager, K-Lo, Soren Dayton, Fausta, and David All.

Rudynomics

Giuliani’s positions on social issues and terrorism get a lot of attention, but his economic views haven’t received as much coverage. He hashed them out yesterday in an interview with Larry Kudlow, transcript here.

And for the political junkies out there, also in the interview, Rudy now admits that in hindsight, he should have jumped into the race three months earlier.

UPDATE: Stephen Moore says “I’m going to have to start calling him ‘Milton Friedman Giuliani.'”


Thompson, Abortion, and Federalism

Over the course of looking into Fred Thompson's position on abortion, I came across the following statement Thompson made during a 1995 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on banning partial birth abortion. I think it may go part of the way toward explaining some of the conflicting reports of what his position was in the mid-1990s. In this statement, Thompson expresses concern that if a partial birth abortion ban is passed and held up in the courts under the commerce clause, then it may lead to further expansion of government in other areas. To be clear, he ultimately voted to ban partial birth abortion, but what his statement reveals is a concern about limiting the power of the federal government:

 SEN. THOMPSON: Each side on these arguments takes the position of the commerce clause it helps them at the moment. Many of us have been arguing for years, and one of the reasons why we came up here was because we felt like that the federal government should not be encroaching on ever aspect of everybody's lives, and the Lopez decision comes along and we say, hallelujah, finally the Supreme Court is getting some reasonableness into their interpretation of commerce clause. And they said that the position of a gun in a school does not affect interstate commerce. Not all guns are made in Arkansas. Presumably, they were sent in from out of state. In many cases, there were commercial transactions where those guns were purchased. But, still, the Supreme Court said that does not substantially affect interstate commerce. And, now — and I'm not arguing against the ban, I'm not taking a position on that, and for my own good reasons, and I'll stick there, but I think we should realize that if, in fact, this turns out to be upheld under the commerce clause, I don't see a whole lot that the federal government can't reach.

If you go into a small community and the federal government is able to legislate it, but we in Congress go into the smallest community in America and regulate this kind of procedure, sure, somebody may travel across the intrastate lines but, you know, these guns travel across interstate lines too. I just — it's a real dilemma for me and a problem, and I don't think we ought to sweep it under the rug, those of us who are concerned about the centralization of our government and of our regulating everything from up here; that if this is consistent with Lopez, then I don't see that many of us who were cheered by Lopez have much to cheer about anymore, from the standpoint of the interpretation of the commerce clause.

Thompson's position on abortion in the mid-1990s continues to generate debate. On the one hand, we have numerous news reports from the time describing him as pro-choice, and it's unlikely they all could have gotten the story wrong without prompting phone calls from the Thompson camp. On the other hand, we don't yet have direct quotes of Thompson saying he's pro-choice, the co-director of a prominent pro-life group told me that Thompson opposed abortion in 1994, and he has an eight-year record in the Senate to back her up.


How can we explain this contradiction? One possibility is that it could be a matter of semantics. According to news reports, Thompson opposed a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion. The statement on the partial birth ban I cited above suggests that Thompson was concerned about the use of federal government power. It's quite possible that Thompson could have opposed a federal ban on abortion, but favored the overturning of Roe v. Wade so that states could be free to restrict it. Now, I'm still looking into the matter, and I cannot say for sure at this point whether this was the stance he took. But if he did hold such a view, would that have made him pro-life or pro-choice? Could this explain the different recollections concerning Thompson's 1994 candidacy? I don't know, but I'm curious to find out, and would be happy to post evidence on either side.

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Thompson-a-saurus Rex

Fred Thompson may have only floated the idea of the running for president, but that was enough to shake up the Republican nomination race. In the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, Thompson is already third, with 12 percent of the vote. With Thompson in the race, first place Giuliani drops to 31 percent from 44 percent in the last poll from early March, McCain actually ticks up to 22 percent from 20 percent, Gingrich drops 1 point to 8 percent, and Romney falls into a fifth place tie with Brownback, with just 3 percent of the vote (Romney was at 8 percent in the last poll).

One thing worth noting is that other news events have occurred in the past few weeks that could have affected the poll, so it’s impossible to attribute the fluctuations exclusively to Thompson. But clearly his presence in the poll did have an impact.

I think Thompson eats into Giuliani’s support because clearly a portion of Rudy’s backers are people who want someone electable, but hate McCain. Thompson offers a viable alternative to McCain who is also hawkish on national security, but is conservative on social issues.

As for Romney, I blogged about how Thompson threatens his candidacy last week, and this poll provides some emprical data to back that up. The Romney camp has been banking on the fact that when all is said and done, conservatives fed up with Rudy and McCain would flock to Mitt, but with Thompson in the race, they have a more viable alternative. This poll result is quite bad for Romney, given that Brownback has a fraction of the money organization he does, and probably even less name recognition. Romney folks want us to discount polls this early, but his poll numbers should at least not be getting worse. At 3 percent, Romney is now officially tied with the margin of error.

Rudy Awakening

While he’s long been ahead in polls for the Republican nomination, up until now, inside the Beltway types have remained doubtful that Rudy could win. But even they are catching up. National Journal’s 2008 White House rankings are out, and for the first time, Giuliani is on top. NJ‘s Hotline blog introduces the new rankings by noting, “the issue stuff just doesn’t seem to be hurting Rudy Giuliani yet, and we can’t help but think that the early predictions of his doom were overstated.” Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, Chris Cilliza, a longtime Rudy skeptic, has also placed the former mayor on top of his rankings. Just to put this in context, back in December, he ranked Rudy fourth, noting that his social views “would seem to disqualify him” and that “we’re still not convinced that he will ultimately jump into the race for real.” There are still a lot of Giuliani naysayers out there who argue that his support is shallow, and once primary voters learn more about his views on social issues, they’ll abandon him. Perhaps this theory will ultimately be proven correct, but one thing is for sure, up to this point in the race, his critics have been dead wrong. Those who continue to write off his chances may be eating their words this time next year.