Fred Thompson

'Persecuted': Religious Right Movie Thriller About The Death Of Freedom In America

Ah, Friday night at CPAC. If you weren’t joining the “drunken yuck monkeys” whose loutish behavior so incensed Matt Barber, and you weren’t attending the white nationalist party whose invitation was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, you could catch an advance screening of Persecuted, a movie scheduled for release later this year.  Some of us who attended the screening felt pretty persecuted ourselves by being forced to watch the trailer over and over and over again in the half hour before show time. Maybe that was a plan to put us on emotional edge for this “thriller” about religious liberty in America being destroyed by the sinister forces of freedom, equality, and religious pluralism.

Since I’m writing about a movie few people have seen, I will say for the record, SPOILER ALERT.

But first a little context: Bemoaning the dominance of liberals in Hollywood is a familiar theme at right-wing conferences like CPAC and the Values Voter Summit. But conservatives in Hollywood are organizing. And they’re working hard to convince studios to produce more films with “pro-family” and religious themes. (Son of God and Noah are examples.) A Friday morning panel on the topic featured actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson; Persecuted producer Daniel Lusko; Gerald Molen, a producer of Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America and his upcoming film America; and D’Souza himself. If anyone had qualms about having Dinesh D’Souza being held up as a “values” icon, they kept it to themselves.

But back to Persecuted, which features Thompson, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Davison, and James Remar. The cast includes a couple of well-known Christian performers, comedian Brad Stine and singer Natalie Grant. As in real life, Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson plays a journalist.

As a movie, the film is Preposterous. But as an insight into the paranoia and worldview of Religious Right activists, Persecuted is as fascinating as it is disturbing.

The plot revolves around an evil senator who is obsessed with a piece of legislation, “The Faith and Fairness Act.” It’s never clear exactly what the Act does, but it seems to force all religions to operate under a single umbrella organization, and to allow members of any faith the ability to preach in others’ houses of worship. It thus combines the Religious Right’s fear that liberals are itching to silence Christian broadcasters by reviving the long-defunct Fairness Doctrine, and their resentment that people view them as intolerant for believing their faith is the only avenue to truth and God.

Standing tall against this plot is evangelist John Luther (John Calvin/John Wesley and Martin Luther?). Luther is sort of a Billy Graham figure who has overcome a past of drug abuse to become a national figure.  His ministry, we are told, reaches more people than the evening news. Early in the movie, the evil Senator Harrison tries to bully Luther into backing his legislation at a religious rally; when Luther refuses to compromise his faith for the senator’s political gain, Harrison puts in motion an elaborate plot to destroy him. The also-evil president of the United States is in on the scheme: he looks a little bit like Ted Kennedy and sounds more than a little bit like Bill Clinton.

The plan involves murdering a teenage girl and framing Luther as her rapist and murderer. While Luther is on the run, Harrison corrupts the rest of the ministry’s leadership with promises of “earmarks” and personalized tax breaks, and they throw the ministry’s support behind the senator’s new law. 

Somehow, Luther, the most hunted man in America, is able to sneak into the launch event for Sumac, the new organization that brings together Jews, Christians, and Muslims and brings to fruition Sen. Harrison’s “dream of a tradition of faith as diverse as our skins.” If the point about the dangers of diversity and religious pluralism isn’t obvious enough, the senator says America is “no longer a Christian nation…it never has been,” echoing a statement by President Obama that caused spluttering outrage among right-wing Christian leaders. By the way, in the movie, the whole governmentally-forced-religious-merger thing is justified as a response to the threat of terrorism.

Still with me? Luther has an amazing knack for evading government agents disguised only by sunglasses and a hoodie, and shows a remarkable ability to outrun professional killers even with a bullet in his back. Eventually, with help from his dad (confusingly, and without explanation, a Catholic priest), another young priest, some honorable FBI agents, and Gretchen Carlson, Luther is able to clear his name, but at great price: his father is killed by Secret Service assassins.

The movie doesn’t quite wrap things up in a happy-ending bow. There’s a climactic scene in which the good FBI agents come to the rescue, and Luther, despite having nearly bled to death, manages to kill the murderous Secret Service agent. Next thing we know, he is making his post-recovery return to his ministry’s headquarters, where all the sell-out executives are still in place, telling him how much money has been pouring in along with cards from well-wishers. Luther glares at them, grabs his Bible, and heads to the White House, where the sinister president introduces Luther at a press conference and, as he is headed to the podium, whispers in his ear to say nice things.

The movie ends with Luther clutching the podium and staring into the camera. Will he speak Truth to power? Will he denounce the president and his money-grubbing ministry colleagues? How soon will filming start on the sequel?

Let’s review the symbolism in Persecuted. The enemies of religious liberty are those who use the language of fairness and equality and those who say America is not a Christian nation. Religious pluralism is portrayed not as a matter of respecting freedom for every faith tradition, but as a deceptive, coercive tool of government to erase religious difference and put all faiths under the politically correct thumb of government. Other religious leaders are either co-conspirators or complicit sheep. The only non-Christians I remember in the film were those sitting silently on the dais as Sen. Harrison launched his religious takeover project. Oh, and about that growing cohort of religions “nones” in America? Luther’s dad tells him at one point that those who believe in nothing must destroy him in order to achieve their goals. And with the exception of some FBI agents, government officials are as soulless and devoid of scruples as the characters on House of Cards.

Luther and his father symbolize the alliance between right-wing evangelicals and conservative Catholics. We aren’t told how it is that Luther’s father came to be a Catholic priest, but perhaps he was an Episcopalian who left for the Catholic Church when his own denomination became insufficiently conservative on sexuality issues. After Luther finds his father murdered, he spends the rest of the cat-and-mouse drama with his dad’s bloody rosary beads wrapped around his hands: a symbol of the shared willingness for martyrdom pledged by conservative evangelical and Catholic signers of the Manhattan Declaration?

It’s hard to say what kind of impact Persecuted might find, but any contribution it makes to our civic discourse is likely to be negative. Its backers clearly hope that a marketing campaign targeting conservative Christians will find an audience and help push a trend toward bigger-budget movies with that audience in mind. 

Whether or not Persecuted is a box-office success, it is one more story-telling weapon in the arsenal of the right-wing media machine that is dedicated to promoting the ideology that America was meant by God to be a Christian nation, and that the federal government and the forces of pluralism and “political correctness” are agents of tyranny bent on forcing Christians to bend to their will.  Sort of like Ben Carson’s speech at CPAC.

There Are Two Christian Right Movies Called 'Persecuted' Coming Out This Year

We’ve written quite a bit about the Religious Right’s conviction that conservative Christians in the U.S. are facing religious persecution through things like gay rights and the expansion of contraception access. Well, in case we needed a confirmation that this is in fact the direction of the right-wing zeitgeist, it turns out that are several movies coming out this year about the supposed oppression of Christians in America. And two of them have the same title: “Persecuted.”

The much higher-budget, star-studded production is directed by 30-year-old Daniel Lusco, whose previous films have included collaborations with End Times alarmist Joel Rosenberg and a fawning documentary about former general and current Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin’s anti-Muslim activism.

Lusco's "Persecuted" stars James Remar and Dean Stockwell and includes guest appearances by Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (in her film debut!) and former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

A press release outlines the plot:

PERSECUTED tells the story of a modern-day evangelist named John Luther, played by SAG Award-nominated and Saturn Award winning actor James Remar ( X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, "Dexter", DJANGO: UNCHAINED, WHAT LIES BENEATH, RED). Luther is the last hold out for a national endorsement to make sweeping reform in freedom of speech. As the government is mandating political correctness while covertly waging a war against religious organizations, a U.S. Senator, portrayed by Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Davison (X-MEN, "Lost", "Castle"), and his political allies create a sinister plan of denial and scandal to frame John Luther for murder. Suddenly his once normal life is turned upside down as he becomes a fugitive vowing to expose those responsible. It is a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the moral ethics and freedoms of America.

American Center for Law and Justice director Jordan Sekulow, who also has a cameo in the film, explained today to the Christian Post that he doesn’t think the premise of the movie is that far-fetched:

On the surface, "Persecuted" plays out like many government thrillers. Similar to movies based upon Tom Clancy novels, it has a hero with limited resources faced off against corrupt politicians and government officials. Central to the plot, though, is an effort by the president and his cronies to pass the "Faith and Fairness Act," which would be similar to a "fairness doctrine" for religious groups. If this law were passed, religious broadcasters would be required to present all religious points of view when presenting their own point of view.

The notion that such a law could actually be passed in the United States is not out of the realm of possibility, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, explained to The Christian Post. The law is similar to a resolution that was passed at the United Nations about the defamation of religion.

"It's backed predominantly by Islamic countries, but in the name of tolerance, so that they can criminalize defamation or defamatory speech so that you effectively become a criminal if you say Jesus is the only way, that becomes criminal. So it's real," Sekulow said.

Carlson apparently agrees. She told Charisma in December, “There’s a Christian message here, a political message here and I think that it is very timely in regard to what some politicians might do in some cases to get things done.”

The star-studded “Persecuted” will be released this spring and had a pre-screening this week that was reportedly attended by several members of Congress. The competing “Persecuted” hasn’t been so lucky. First-time director Benjamin Bondar apparently originally intended his “Persecuted” to be a feature film but after a Kickstarter funding campaign failed is now editing it into a short film to submit to Cannes.

Bondar’s film is set in the Soviet Union, but is clearly meant to be an allegorical tale about the United States today. Describing the film as “a romantic thriller about socialism, atheism, & the ultimate corruption of BIG GOVERNMENT,” its Facebook page outlines the plot:

After several failed attempts to capture four Evangelists who have been effectively supporting Christianity throughout the Soviet Union, the Soviet government orders its best trained undercover KGB officer to infiltrate the Christian Church and stop the growing number of believers through whatever means possible. While attempting to help his government abolish Christianity and find the elusive criminals, KGB officer Vavilov falls in love with Julia, a beautiful Christian girl. For the first time, he questions his government’s agenda, the meaning of life, and his own need for salvation.

In a Facebook comment in response to a skeptical viewer, Bondar wrote, “The unfortunate reality in the U.S. is that both socialist policies and atheist propaganda are actively trying to marginalize and demonize the practice of established religions such as Christianity. I feel that watching this movie with an open and attentive mind will help prove this point by providing a historical context with which to view current events happening in the U.S. right now.”

These two films are by no means the only ones coming out this year pushing the Christian persecution narrative. Liberty Counsel’s film “Uncommon” will take on the supposed crisis of “religious liberty in public school.”

Land Says Obama Will Lose In 2012 As Long As Republicans Don't Do Something "Really Stupid"

I genuinely have no idea why Richard Land continues to offer up his political prognostications or why OneNewsNow continues to report them, but for some reason it keep happening:

Now that the midterm elections are over, a number of political pundits have begun talking about 2012 and how the battle between Obama and the new Republican-controlled Congress could shape the upcoming presidential campaign. Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), believes Obama's chances for re-election are not good right now.

"We can't underestimate him, but he is a conviction politician. He is going to do what he thinks is right for the country, which is way to the left of what most Americans think," Land notes. "And I think his re-election chances are pretty dim, unless the Republicans are really stupid. Now they have been in the past. I mean, did anybody think Bob Dole could really win [in 1996]?"

And while the Republican pick in 2012 will either enhance or hurt Obama's chances of keeping his position, the ERLC president suggests Obama might also have to contend with a primary challenge from Hillary Clinton.

"If Mr. Obama's approval rating continues to fall, and I think it will because I think he will fight this Congress -- I think that if his opinion ratings get below 40 percent, Hillary may run against him," Land suspects.

So allow me to point out, yet again, that during the last election cycle Land could not stop talking about how Fred Thompson was a "Southern-fried Reagan" who possessed "a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability," while gushing that to "see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint."

How did that turn out again? 

And also, back in October Land predicted that Hillary Clinton would resign as Secretary of State within thirty days of the election so that she could launch a primary challenge against President Obama - which means she has better start getting her affairs in order because she only has two weeks left to do so.

Richard Land: Political Prognosticator Extraordinaire

Back during the last Republican presidential primary, Richard Land could not stop talking about how Fred Thompson was a "Southern-fried Reagan" who possessed "a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability," while gushing that to "see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint.”

Of course, Thompson's presidential campaign ended up being monumental bust ... but that hasn't stopped Land from fancying himself a political prognosticator and offering up inane "predictions" about how Hillary Clinton is going to resign as Secretary of State in order to launch a primary challenge against President Obama:

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, believes the American people are unhappy with the Obama agenda, and he predicts that a GOP tsunami is coming.

"I think what you're going to see in November is a massive backlash saying, 'No -- we want to restore this country to a country where we understand obligations and responsibilities, and we're not going to focus so much on rights and privileges,'" Land suggests. "I think that there is a tsunami coming."

But even if the Democratic Party gets thrashed, he does not think Obama will moderate his left-wing ideology.

"If this is as bad as I think it's going to be, I'll make a prediction for you: Within 30 days, Hillary Clinton will resign as secretary of state, and she will shortly after that announce that she's running for president. She will say that Barack Obama abandoned the Israelis, [but] she will not; she will support Israel, and...the only thing that stands between the Democratic Party and a political debacle is Hillary Clinton," the ERLC president suggests.

Election Day is November 2, which means that, according to Land, Clinton will resign by December 2 ... so let's check back in then and see how Land's prediction is faring, shall we? 

Do Religious Right Leaders Even Try To Hide Their Hypocrisy?

Sometimes I wonder if Religious Right leaders have no memory of things they have said and done in the past or just think that nobody else does.

Take, for instance, this recent speech by Richard Land:

Still, Land landed many of his barbs at Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He recalled a moment in the 1990s at a church in Lebanon, Ken., in which he called two deacons who supported Clinton hookers.

“’You’re just prostitutes for sale to the highest bidder,’” Land said he told the deacons. “I’m not for sale. If I’ve got to choose between my pocketbook and unborn babies, I’m going to choose unborn babies every time.”

Does Land not recall the last Republican primary where he was showering Fred Thompson with praise at every opportunity? This Fred Thompson:

During his eight years in the Senate, Thompson consistently voted against abortion rights, but anti-abortion activists say his public record on the subject is not unblemished.

A longtime advocate for states' rights, Thompson has said the federal government should not have a role in the process.

During a televised 1994 Senate debate, a clip of which is available on YouTube, Thompson said, "Should the government come in and criminalize let's say a young girl and her parents and her doctor? ... I think not."

More recently, Thompson has been forced to answer questions about his career as a lawyer/lobbyist, when the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association hired him in 1991 to lobby the administration of President George H.W. Bush on behalf of abortion rights.

When the National Right to Life Committee endorsed Thompson, the group was widely accused to selling out ... but apparently Land has conveniently forgotten all about this little episode

Don't Print Up Those "Rubio 2012" Buttons Quite Yet

Ben Smith reports that Richard Land is apparently quite smitten with Marco Rubio and is tossing out his name as a possible presidential candidate in 2012: 

Marco Rubio's remarkable fundraising haul -- $3.6 million this quarter, he just announced -- is a reminder of the scale of his stardom inside the Republican Party, all of whose core constituencies seem to like the guy.

He's already hearing every day (and brushing it off) that he should run for president in 2012, and at the inevitable moment in the cycle (as in every party, every cycle) when Republicans panic about their field of nominees, he's likely to be uniquely attractive: young, conservative, Hispanic, and from a swing state besides.

The buzz for a Rubio candidacy is broad, and deep. Observers like Matt Lewis have made the case publicly, and my impression is that if a swathe of conservative leaders haven't talked up his candidacy, it's only because they haven't been asked. I was talking to the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land earlier this year for another story when he brought Rubio up, unasked.

"The longer nobody catches fire, the more space heir is for Marco," he said. "It wouldn’t be unheard of for a freshman Senator from Florida to be the nominee – particularly one who was Speaker of the [Florida Assembly].

"He's got more experience than Obama had," Land continued. "There are a lot of Hispanics in this country who would find someone with Marco’s ethnic background very appealing. Although I like Sarah [Palin] I think Sarah’s got a lot more impediments to a nomination than Marco Rubio does."

I was surprised to hear it from Land, a leading figure on the Christian right, with which Rubio hasn't been particularly associated. Rubio is more generally seen as the darling of the Wall Street-financed Club for Growth and of the fiscally-oriented Tea Party movement. But Land said he'd heard a great deal about Rubio from Baptist ministers in Florida, who said "he walks the walk."

If Rubio is thinking of plotting a run for the White House before he's even been elected to Congress, it might behoove him to remember that last time around, Land couldn't stop talking about how Fred Thompson was a "Southern-fried Reagan" who possessed "a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability," while gushing that to "see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint.”

NY-23: A Test of Huckabee's Conservatism?

Yesterday we noted that Doug Hoffman's campaign for the House seat in NY-23 had been endorsed by a veritable who's who of right-wing leaders and organizations.  In fact, endorsing Hoffman has become something of a test of one's conservative bona fides and so it was interesting that one name that was conspicuously absent from Hoffman's list of supporters was Mike Huckabee, and is appears as if Huckabee's refusal to endorse Hoffman is not going unnoticed by those on the right

“It’s very disappointing,” said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council. “You have names out there like Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson and Tim Pawlenty who are willing to take a stand. You’d think that would have pushed him to make a decision.”

“It concerns me. I think he should endorse. I think Doug Hoffman is his kind of candidate,” said Mike Mears, executive director of Concerned Women for America’s political action committee.

“I keep hoping that he is going to do it,” he said. “Conservatives are lining up behind Doug Hoffman.”

...

“When you’re a leader of the conservative movement, as Mike Huckabee is, you should make a bold statement,” said Mike Long, president of the New York State Conservative Party. “If you’re a leader, how do you not get involved?”

“If you want to show leadership, you’ve got to break away from the club,” Long added.

Politico speculates that Huckabee's reluctance to endorse Hoffman might be rooted in some sort of animosity he still holds toward Fred Thompson or the Club for Growth, both of whom have endorsed Hoffman, though that seems like a ridiculously unlikely reason for Huckabee to sit out this race to me.  But it does provide an opportunity for the Thompson, Club for Growth, and Huckabee teams to renew their rivalry and take pot-shots at one another: 

Both the Thompson camp and the Club for Growth gave evidence of those tensions by taking shots at Huckabee for his nonendorsement. 

“We’re very disappointed that Gov. Huckabee saw fit to come into the district for a Conservative Party event and then didn’t support or contribute to Hoffman,” said a source close to Thompson.

“He’s only hurting himself with his silence,” said Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating, who noted archly that “some people might conclude he supports Scozzafava.”

Sarah Huckabee dismissed the idea that Mike Huckabee had decided to stay out of the race because of any lingering tensions with Thompson or the Club for Growth, noting that he had thrown his early backing to Club for Growth favorite Marco Rubio in the hotly contested Florida GOP Senate primary.

“It’s absurd to say he doesn’t take sides,” Sarah Huckabee wrote in an e-mail. “He has taken a stand time after time for conservative issues. Where were all the conservatives when he was saying TARP was a bad idea?”

FRC: We'd Rather Lose The Seat Then See a Liberal Republican Win

Yesterday, David Weigel had a good piece on the Republican "civil war" unfolding in New York over the race for the open Congressional seat between Doug Hoffman, the choice of the right-wing base, and Dede Scozzafava, who is being backed by the RNC:

In July, Hoffman bid to become the Republican Party’s nominee for a special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. The nominee would be chosen by party leaders in the district’s 11 counties; few people were surprised when they chose Deirdre “Dede” Scozzafava, a five-term assemblywoman who’d voted with Democrats on abortion and labor issues, factors that could help the party hold a historically conservative district that had voted for the Obama-Biden ticket last year. Hoffman, a 59-year-old accountant making his first run for office, forged ahead and grabbed the nomination of the venerable Conservative Party.

Since then, Hoffman’s campaign has become this election cycle’s great conservative crusade. On Sept. 5, the candidate was endorsed by 9-12 Candidates, an offshoot of Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, and a reflection of the support he was getting on conservative blogs. On Sept. 28, both Fred Thompson and the Club for Growth put their weight behind Hoffman, with the Club putting $250,000 into TV ads attacking Scozzafava and Democratic candidate Bill Owens. Those endorsements, coupled with reports that Scozzafava was struggling, brought the American Conservative Union and the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List into the fray to back Hoffman. On Monday afternoon, FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey announced that he’d campaign for Hoffman, putting the Tea Party movement’s seal of approval on the upstart campaign.

Two weeks out from the election, the battle in upstate New York is being portrayed in the press as a “civil war” between Republican factions. That might understate how much support for Hoffman, and how little for Scozzafava, there is in the conservative movement. As far as the roiling Republican base is concerned, support for Hoffman has become a test of whether a conservative leader can be trusted. Conservative media, from magazines to blogs, are using the low-stakes special election to test their ability to drive news cycles and raise money.

The Family Research Council is particularly incensed at the RNC's sell-out in this race, saying that what the GOP needs is "good women like Marsha Blackburn and Michele Bachmann in Congress" instead of more "pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, liberal candidate who fails to reflect the values the Republican Party."

In fact, so outraged is FRC that they are now declaring that their goal is to "bring down" Scozzafava rather than see a liberal Republican elected:

"This is ridiculous -- putting a liberal up like that and expecting everybody [in the GOP] to fall in line. It's just not going to happen," says [Connie Mackey, president of the Family Research Council Action Political Action Committee]. "And if we can't elect Doug Hoffman, frankly we do hope that we at least bring down the Republican candidate."

Huckabee: A Right-Wing True Believer

When Mike Huckabee was seeking the Republican Party's nomination during the last election, the Religious Right's DC powerhouse insiders wanted nothing to do with him, forcing him to seek support from a variety of second and third-tier activists and leaders who inhabit the fringes of the movement. 

When John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson all wisely chose to skip the Values Voter Debate organized by Janet Porter and other such activists (though they were grilled by the organizers nonetheless) on stage stood Mike Huckabee, smiling as a choir sang "Why Should God Bless America?" and assuring the organizers that though "many [other candidates] come to you. I come from you."

Huckabee's appearance led Porter to declare him the "David among Jesse's sons" and not long thereafter she became co-chair of the Huckabee campaign's Faith and Family Values Coalition where she was joined by the likes of Rick Scarborough, David Barton, Mat Staver, Don Wildmon, and Star Parker.

When Huckabee wrote a book following the end of his campaign, he singled out these supporters as a "new wave of leaders…[with] prophetic voices…[who are] determined to follow their convictions instead of the conventional wisdom."

In the months since President Obama's election, many of these people have gone completely off of the deep-end and, whenever I have written about them, I have included a mention of the fact that they once served as part of Huckabee's campaign coalition.  I did so because I was operating under the assumption that, given how radical his one-time supporters have become in recent months, his first order of business were he to make another run for the GOP nomination would be to distance himself from these people. 

But obviously I didn't need to keep reminding people of his ties to these fringe figures because, as it turns out, he apparently intends to keep right on courting them, which is why he'll be a featured speaker in September at their How To Take Back America Conference:

Just look at this list of organizers and hosts:

Michael Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, as well as the author of the Parental Rights Amendment.

Don Wildmon is Chairman of the American Family Association, the boycott-happy right-wing group that recently went after Miley Cyrus for Twittering her views that Jesus loves everyone, whether they are gay or straight.

Joseph Farah is the founder of WorldNetDaily, one of the main forces behind the "birther" movement and just about every other right-wing conspiracy.

Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum believes that married women can't be raped by their husbands.

Mat Staver is the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the group that is still selling the "proud to be a right-wing extremist" cards, who, earlier this year at CPAC, declared that gay marriage would lead to an entire generation of violent criminals.

Rick Scarborough of Vision America recently traveled to Notre Dame to protest along with Alan Keyes and Randall Terry and, just last week, issued a statement decrying the administration's recognition of LBGT pride month, saying that gays have nothing to be proud of and that those "who engage in unnatural acts should hang their heads in shame."

But none of Huckabee's former supporters has become more deranged than Janet Porter of Faith2Action, who declared that anyone who votes for Obama will go to hell, has used her column at WorldNetDaily to advance the birther conspiracy against Obama and lead the fight against hate crimes legislation, dubbed the "Pedophile Protection Act", by inundating Congress with faxes, all while simultaneously leading the right-wing effort against the Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism by launching an ad campaign demanding Janet Napolitano's resignation.

Just about every insane right-wing conspiracy theory currently in circulation has been embraced by one or more of the organizers of this event, all of whom have actively worked to spread the fear that Obama and the Democrats are out to destroy Christianity and turn America into a socialist hellhole. 

And Mike Huckabee, instead of trying to distance himself from the lunacy of his former supporters, openly and willingly continues to associate with them. 

Absolutely amazing.

Richard Land: Historian and Scientist

It seems that Richard Land is not just some Religious Right leader and pundit, he's also something of a renaissance man with expertise in a wide variety of area - such as predicting the course of history where, in the future, George W. Bush will be hailed as one of our greatest president:

A prominent Southern Baptist leader has compared George W. Bush to Harry Truman, another president whose approval ratings dropped to the 20s in his final months in office but is now considered one of the greatest American presidents of the 20th century.

"Just remember that you heard it here from me," Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Dec. 6 on his weekly radio program. "He will be the Harry Truman of our time."

Commenting on reports of a debate about whether Bush would go down as one of the worst presidents in the last 50 years, Land predicted that, like Truman's, Bush's legacy will be vindicated by the long scope of history.

That includes the president's least popular decision, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. While acknowledging the entry into war was handled poorly, Land said, the 2007 troop surge has placed the U.S.-led coalition on the cusp of victory of Iraq.

In addition to making America safer, Land applauded Bush for blunting "the metastasizing of abortion" by opposing late-term abortions and research using embryonic stem cells.

But Land isn't stopping there and is likewise demonstrating a heretofore unknown scientific expertise as he explains that climate change is a total hoax:

Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called global warming a "hoax" and a "scam" on his weekly radio program Nov. 22.

Land attributed fluctuations in global temperature to "cycles of nature that God has allowed in the cosmos" and labeled human activity "a minor contribution to global warming."

"The sunspots have faded, the solar cycle has peaked, the sun is going into a quiescent period and everybody but [former Vice President and anti-global warming activist] Al Gore is cooling off," Land said.

Of course, it is not as if Land has a particularly good track record of making predictions regarding the issues he actually does know something about, as displayed by his repeated proclamations just over a year ago that Fred Thompson was a "Southern-fried Reagan” and that "to see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint,” so it is probably best to take his current declarations with a grain or two of salt.

Land Slowly Backs Away From Palin

Politico notes that even though Sarah Palin tops polls of Republican voters’ preferred pick for the party’s nominee in 2012, her support comes mainly from hard-core right-wing conservatives while her approval rating among moderates and centrists has plummeted.

What makes the article interesting is this statement from Richard Land, who was one of Palin’s earliest backers touting her candidacy way back in early August and constantly gushing about her during the campaign, suddenly suggesting that the Right doesn’t “have all their hopes and dreams vested” in her future:

The GOP intra-party debate over Palin has become a proxy for the larger question of her party's future, and conservative chieftains like Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land fear that attacks on Palin are at times veiled swipes at the party base.

"It would be a mistake to say that social conservatives have all their hopes and dreams vested in Sarah Palin," Land said, but he added Palin "does have the one thing you can't coach, charisma," and continues to have "star power" with conservatives.

Now Land has a long history of trying to portray himself as more of a pundit than a Religious Right hack and setting himself up as perhaps a more sensible alternative to the likes of James Dobson.  In that capacity, he often serves as a moderately reliable bellwether of the Right’s views on political issues, such as his early adoration of Fred Thompson which then quickly evaporated when it was clear that his campaign was going nowhere or his lukewarm support of John McCain’s candidacy that was kicked into overdrive by his choice of Palin as his running mate.

So it is interesting to see Land start backing away ever-so-slowly from the idea that Palin represents the future of the Religious Right movement in American politics, presumably out of concern that Palin’s future itself might be rather limited, as Ed Rollins points out:

Ed Rollins, who ran presidential bids for Republicans including Ronald Reagan and Huckabee, argued that "independents are something she can focus on later."

In the end, though, Rollins expects that Palin "will be very similar to [Dan] Quayle."

"When he started to run, [Quayle] got nowhere," Rollins said. "The potential is there [for Palin] but out of 10 weeks she had two good weeks." For the 2012 race, "she's now not starting at the top but starting at the bottom," he said, adding that Palin would have to campaign for years in Iowa and New Hampshire to mount a viable campaign.

More on Barton’s Stumping for McCain

It’s certainly not going to generate any news that this point, but I just figured I’d highlight this article just for future reference since it reports that Marlys Popma, John McCain’s evangelical outreach coordinator, attended a forum last week where she made the case for McCain alongside David Barton:

Popma and other surrogates from the McCain and Obama campaigns participated in an event at Christian Life Assembly in Camp Hill, Pa., last Wednesday.

“Blue Like Jazz” author Don Miller was on the Obama side. He has visited several Christian campuses on the campaign’s behalf and spoke at Messiah earlier that day.

Miller was joined by Shaun Casey, the Obama campaign’s national evangelical coordinator, and Paul Monteiro, national deputy director of religious affairs.

There’s a “passion for social justice among Christian college students,” Monteiro said. “Once we knew they were there, we worked with them.”

On the McCain side, Popma joined David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, and Renee Amoore, deputy chairwoman of the state Republican Party.

This event was held around the same time that Barton was stumping for McCain in Pennsylvania along with Fred Thompson and others, so it is pretty clear that at some point in recent weeks the McCain campaign decided that it would benefit electorally from associating itself with Barton and exploiting his right-wing connections and biased pseudo-history.

Huckabee: I'd Rather Be On TV Than Serve in Government

Mike Huckabee recently sat down with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to discuss the current state of politics and his emerging television stardom.  During the course of the conversation, Huckabee weighed in on a variety of topics: proclaiming that if Fred Thompson had not entered the race, he would have won the South Carolina primary and would be the GOP nominee today; reiterating that he has no reason to think that he’ll be John McCain’s running mate; asserting that “it would be beyond imagination if I didn’t get a prime speaking spot” at the GOP Convention; and declaring that there is “no way” that he’ll take a position with the administration if McCain wins:

If McCain wins and offers you a position in his administration, would you consider it ?

No. No way.

Why ?

Why would I want to do that ? What possible reason ? I’m gonna have a good life out here in the private sector. Why would I go back to telling everybody in the world how much money I make and being limited to what I can make and living in a very expensive city and barely surviving to have some obscure Cabinet post and have some 20-year-old from the White House telling me what I’m gonna do ? Thanks but no thanks. I have better things to do with my life.

Of course Huckabee can't be bothered to serve in government ... not when he’s got a television program in the works:

The week after our interview, Huckabee was scheduled to fly to New York to shoot a pilot for his new TV show this fall on FOX. His new book about the campaign, Do the Right Thing, is to hit stores on November 17 th. He had just returned from a business trip to Japan, while a trip to Rwanda with other politicos loomed. Oh, and he would also be subbing on the radio for Paul Harvey during his stint in Manhattan.

First, the TV bit. It seems such a natural as to be a stereotype. Huck TV. What else but ? Mike Huckabee is to radio, television, Internet, YouTube, multi-media and anything involving a microphone-and-camera as leaves are to trees. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Of his show, Huckabee offers only generalities: “I can say it’s gonna be unlike anything else that’s on FOX and maybe on cable.” When asked if it’s a talk show, Huckabee says, “yes and no. Not a talk show like you’ve seen. We’ll have a live studio audience and some very innovative features.” But surely it’ll be about politics, right ?

“Politics will be a part of it, but it certainly won’t be all of it,” Huckabee says. “I mean, what isn’t politics a part of now ? There are entertainment shows that have a political overtone. I think this may be a political show that has an entertainment overtone.” Images of the Howard Cosell variety hour come frighteningly to mind in the worst-case, fish-out-of-water scenario. In the best case, a conservative version of Jon Stewart without the snarkiness. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine any show that could be unlike anything on cable. What hasn’t been done, you know ?

Here’s a possible clue: One of the producers working with Huckabee is a man named Woody Fraser, who was the original producer of the Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning America.

Richard Land Doth Protest Too Much

Back when Fred Thompson was being hailed as the Republican Party’s savior, there was one man showering Thompson with praise every opportunity he had: Richard Land.  Last July, Land gushed to the Washington Post that Thompson was the second coming of Reagan and the great right-wing hope:

"I'm around a lot of Baptists," Land said. "They find Fred Thompson to be a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability. He's got a Reaganesque ability to connect with ordinary folk that is powerful."

Land added: "He also has the same Teflon coating that Reagan had: Bad stuff just doesn't stick."

Despite his obvious support for Thompson over the other GOP candidates, Land insisted then, and continues to insist today, that he does not endorse candidates and is now citing that bogus position as justification for the fact that he is not being courted hard by John McCain:

CBSNews.com: You've not always been the biggest McCain fan. Has he done a good job in this campaign reaching out to you, and reaching out to the Southern Baptists you represent?

Richard Land: Well, I don't endorse candidates. And so, girls who don't dance don't get invited to as many dances. I have not been the main object of Senator McCain's attention because he knows I don't endorse candidates. It's my understanding that he has been reaching out to people that are considered opinion makers in the evangelical and the conservative Catholic world. I've had some contacts with the campaign. They have called me and asked me questions from time to time. And I have met with the senator a couple of times.

But just because he doesn’t “endorse” candidates, whatever that means, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have all sorts of opinions and advice for the McCain campaign regarding the issue of judges and his running mate:

I think he's done a pretty good job. I think that the speech that he gave at Wake Forest on judges was a very helpful one--in which he reiterated that he was looking at Alito and Roberts as the kind of judges that he would appoint to be confirmed.

I think that the vice presidential choice that John McCain makes is probably the most important choice he's going to make in this entire campaign. Because he has no room for error, no margin for doubt. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will confirm the unease and the mistrust that some evangelicals--and don't forget this, social conservative Catholics--feel about McCain.

If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will help to ease their concerns and confirm to them that, while he may not have been their first choice, he may not have been their second choice, that it's better to vote for a third class fireman than it is to allow a first class arsonist to become president.

Land goes on to rule out potential VP’s like Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge while praising Mike Hucakbee, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor, and reiterating his attack that Barack Obama is the “most radically pro-abortion candidate to ever be nominated by a major party” and predicting that Obama will have no success in his efforts to “peel off a sizeable chunk of white evangelicals” because they have no intention of “surrendering their pro-life values.” 

But still Land insists that not only is he not endorsing any candidate, he’s not even supporting one, while making his preference perfectly clear to anyone who can connect the dots:

CBSNews.com: Now, finally, I know you can't endorse anybody. But, there's no doubt who you're supporting.

Richard Land: Well, I don't support anybody. I do what I call upon Southern Baptists to do. I say that Southern Baptist pastors should never endorse candidates. But I think that Christians, of all stripes, should vote their values, their beliefs, and their convictions. And that those are far more important than their economic self interest. And so, I plan to practice what I preach. I'm going to vote my values, my beliefs, and my convictions. I don't endorse candidates. But I look for candidates who endorse my values and my beliefs and my convictions. And I will leave people to connect their own dots.

McCain Winning Over the Right With SCOTUS Talk

John McCain's courting of Religious Right leaders and activists started off badly, culminating in the Rod Parsley/John Hagee debacle back in May, but since then, the campaign seems to have regained its footing and subsequent lower-profile efforts have been startlingly effective:

As we noted a few weeks ago, McCain quietly met with a handful of right-wing leaders at which he was pressured to start talking more in public about the issues they care about and, as if to signal that he heard the message loud and clear, announced the next day that he supported the anti-gay California Marriage Amendment. From that point, things began to pick up and just last week, he secured the support of a bevy of right-wing activists like Mat Staver, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Rick Scarborough, and David Barton.

Just last week we were noting how the Right, even though not traditionally supportive of McCain, was working diligently to remind its supporters that the future of the Supreme Court is at stake in the next election. It seems that the McCain campaign has been playing up that angle in its outreach efforts as well:

Mr. Burress said he, Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, former interior secretary and Christian Coalition leader Donald P. Hodel, WallBuilders founder David Barton, Liberty Council counsel Mathew Staver and others have been moved to work for the election of Mr. McCain.

He cited mostly their trust in several McCain promises - to make judicial appointments that will resemble that of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia, to "get serious" on abortion and same-sex marriage, and to push values issues in general.

It looks like this is a coordinated message that the McCain campaign and its surrogates are committed to spreading far and wide:

A pro-family activist and former presidential candidate says people of faith cannot afford to endure four years of Barack Obama in hopes that he will be defeated in 2012. Gary Bauer says it's all about the Supreme Court.

...

But Bauer, who is chairman of American Values, says the American public cannot afford to wait four years. "Today we're only one vote away from having a pro-life, pro-family majority in the Supreme Court," he observes. "If Barack Obama is elected, that opportunity will lost, I believe, for several decades."

CNSNews reports that Sen. Fred Thompson brought that message to the National Right to Life Committee's annual convention last week and that it was well-received:

The 2008 presidential election is "foremost about the United States Supreme Court," the president of the National Right to Life Committee said at the group's annual convention Thursday.

"It's not the economy, stupid," said Dr. Wanda Franz, referencing President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign slogan. "No, for us, it's the Supreme Court."

...

"It is absolutely vital to have a court that is on the right side," said Gregg Trude, executive director of Montana Right to Life.

"We are very hopeful that the next Supreme Court vacancy is filled by someone who believes what the Constitution says and believes that it is the role of judges to interpret the law and not to make the law," Lauinger said.

So popular is the message, in fact, that McCain himself made sure to work it into his own remarks at the NRLC convention:

I will look for accomplished men and women, with a proven record of excellence in the law, and a proven commitment, to strictly interpreting the Constitution of the United States. I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Sam Alito, my friend the late William Rehnquist, jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference. I have been pro-life, my entire public career.

McCain: Bork Was No "Maverick Jurist"

John McCain is planning to be in North Carolina tomorrow where he is scheduled to give a speech on judicial nominations:

John McCain’s campaign said Friday that Fred Thompson and Sam Brownback will join the presumptive GOP nominee in North Carolina next week for a major speech on judicial appointments.

Both Thompson and Brownback have endorsed the Arizona senator, and both Republicans presented themselves throughout the Republican primary battle as “consistent conservatives,” particularly regarding social issues and judicial appointments.

The speech, to be held Tuesday at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, will be just one element of a broader outreach to conservatives next week, according to the campaign.

McCain is expected to discuss the kinds of judges he would appoint up and down the federal bench.

Why he is doing this on the day of the Democratic primary in the state is hard to understand.  Perhaps he is hoping to work his way into the press coverage … or perhaps he is hoping to keep a rather low profile while he delivers remarks designed solely to, once again, assure the GOP’s right-wing base that he’ll appoint justices like John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court without attracting too much attention from the media.  

Either way, he’s probably hoping that the press won’t bother to actually write about his record on judges as exemplified by, say, his 1987 support of Robert Bork [PDF]:

I would like to explain why I am going to vote of favor of confirmation [of Robert Bork], and why I do so without  any hesitation … I believe that what the Senate should appropriately examine in a nominee are: Integrity and character, legal competence, and philosophy and judicial temperament.  I believe Robert Bork is well qualified in all four respects … Judge Bork’s honesty, integrity, and diligence are above reproach … [he] demonstrates that he is not some intellectual “loose cannon on deck,” or a quixotic maverick jurist , but is a thoughtful, reasonable, jurist … [he] is hardly a radical, but is rather a very thoughtful judge in synch with the vast majority of his colleagues on the bench.  

First, and most importantly, is the question of Judge Bork’s view of the role of the judiciary.  Judge Bork is clearly a believer in judicial restraint.  He believes that the courts should not create social policy or arbitrate social policy disputes unless the Constitution clearly speaks to the issues.  He believes that in our republican form of government such decisions are properly left to legislatures elected by the people, not Federal judges appointed for life.  I have no problem with that view, because I wholeheartedly agree with it.  

I have no problem with my colleagues voting against Bork if they truly believe he is unfit for the Supreme Court – although I personally cannot conceive of how you could reach that conclusion … I believe Robert Bork will be an outstanding Justice and contributor on that Court … Robert Bork deserves our support and will be a great Supreme Court Justice.  

In his endorsement, McCain delivered a lengthy defense of Bork’s controversial views, stating that Roe v. Wade is "the clearest example of judicial 'legislation'" and that the rules it set out are "nonsense."   Nor did McCain appear to be a fan of the right to privacy, stating that it was entirely "created by Justice Douglas in the Griswold case."

Joining McCain will be Fred Thompson, who shares McCain’s affinity for Justices like Roberts and Alito and is already out making the pitch for McCain on the issue of judges, and Sen. Sam Brownback, who endorsed McCain after his own presidential campaign folded in the early-going, in part to help pay off his campaign debt, but also because he was promised that he “would play an advisory role in helping decide who he should nominate for the Supreme Court.”   That undoubtedly appealed to Brownback because, as he repeatedly stated when he was campaigning, he wanted nothing more than “to be the president that appoints the justice that's needed vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade."  While he won’t get that opportunity to do that directly, advising McCain on Supreme Court nominations will still allow him to play an important role in finding a Supreme Court nominee that will finally eliminate the right to choose.

Bauer Still Ga-Ga Over Thompson

Gary Bauer does not want to see John McCain pick Condoleezza Rice and holds out hope that he'll pick Fred Thompson instead: "[He] certainly has a lot of experience here in Washington, DC, and is also generally well-thought-of by conservatives. [He] comes from a border state, and those states are likely to be very important during what could be the third very close presidential election in a row. So, I hope that Senator McCain is considering former Senator Fred Thompson among many other possibilities around the country."

Huckabee’s Last Stand

While Mike Huckabee prepares for what may be his final stand in Texas, John McCain continues to make in-roads with some of the Religious Right leaders who purport to represent the values that Huckabee seeks to give voice to.

For instance, McCain recently received the endorsement of Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, a one-time Romney backer, is getting advice from one-time Fred Thompson supporter Richard Land, and has Sen. Sam Brownback out there wooing others on his behalf:

Brownback said his task remains crucial, even as the departure of other contenders has cleared the way for McCain to become the Republican party’s nominee. Many evangelical voters are still attracted to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and McCain cannot risk alienating a group that makes up about a third of the conservative voter base.

Earlier this month, Brownback met with Gary Bauer after the conservative Christian power broker endorsed McCain to discuss “what else might be done” to help McCain with social conservatives. He’s also had similar conversations with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Frank Pavone, head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life.  

But that doesn’t mean that Huckabee is willing to throw in the towel or go quietly.  In fact, he seems to be making a last-ditch effort to highlight what he perceives as the key difference between himself and McCain by comparing abortion to slavery after meeting with James Dobson, throwing his support behind Colorado’s “egg as a person” constitutional Human Life Amendment, and daring McCain to debate him on the issues.

And while Huckabee is busy getting pastors involved in his efforts in Texas, he’s also campaigning in Ohio where he is being introduced by Janet Folger, who continues to release anti-McCain ads via her “RoeGone.org” front group (or, as her website mistakenly spells it, “John McCaine.”)  

For her part, Folger has picked up on Huckabee’s hope for a brokered convention by saying that “Gov. Mike Huckabee doesn't need to reach 1,191 delegates to win the nomination – all he has to do is keep John McCain from doing so.”  In fact, a brokered convention seems to be becoming the Huckabee campaign’s main goal

Huckabee's press secretary Alice Stewart said he is in the race for the long haul. "The race isn't over until someone receives 1,191 delegates, and no one has received that yet," Stewart said. "If he were to drop out he would basically be telling all those people in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, North Carolina and all the states that haven't had their primaries or caucuses yet that their votes don't matter. It's certainly possible to bring this all the way to a brokered convention and have it decided in Minneapolis."

According to a CNN news scorecard McCain has 971 delegates, Mitt Romney — who dropped out of the race — holds 286 delegates, Huckabee has 233 and Ron Paul holds 16 delegates. As of Feb. 19, the report showed 1,506 Republican delegates have declared their presidential preference, which leaves 874 up for grabs.

Lori Viars, a Warren County delegate and Huckabee supporter, said she likes her man's chances at a convention showdown because she believes delegates who currently support Romney will cross over to Huckabee.

While it is understandable that at this point in the primaries, the Huckabee campaign would have little choice but to pin its hopes on simply preventing McCain from securing the required number of delegates, what makes them think that, were they to head into Minneapolis, a brokered GOP convention would choose Huckabee as the nominee?  

After all, if Huckabee was popular enough among the GOP insiders who make up the convention, he wouldn’t have had to run his entire campaign whining about why they won’t support him and complaining about conspiracies.  In fact, if Huckabee could win the support of the Republican Party’s rank-and-file, he wouldn’t be getting crushed in the delegate count in the first place.  

And considering that Huckabee served as the chief anti-Romney attack dog, it is highly unlikely that his delegates at the convention would suddenly decide to support the one candidate whose primary role in the race seemed to be to undermine Romney’s electoral chances at every turn.

Delta Farce

Mike Huckabee is hoping to pick up Fred Thompson’s leftovers, but that doesn’t seem to be going so well. Aside from Gary Bauer and other religious-right leaders who still don’t like Huckabee, a number of Thompson’s backers have switched to Mitt Romney. And now an embittered former Thompson staffer has started his own campaign hitting Huckabee where it hurts most: his sidekick, Chuck Norris.

Huckabee may joke about his action-hero endorsement, but as we’ve noted before, he’s made Norris a very serious part of his campaign. And not just in terms of livening up his stage shows: Norris is aggressively raising money, hoping to provide $10 million for the cash-strapped candidate (one recent fundraiser netted $250,000).

Dennis Ng, founder of BoycottChuckNorris.com, says that makes Norris “fair game”:

Saying he's 'kicking Chuck Norris where it hurts – his wallet,' Ng explains he's starting the boycott because Norris endorsed a presidential candidate and supports ideas "far out of the mainstream."

Ng singles out Norris' endorsement of Huckabee – "a candidate who says that he does not believe in evolution," and "who called for the isolation of AIDS patients – long after the Centers for Disease Control determined that the virus was not spread by casual contact." …

Ng is asking visitors to his site to join him in boycotting products Norris endorses and companies that purchase advertising on reruns of his long-running CBS television series, "Walker, Texas Ranger." In the first category, Ng lists exercise-equipment manufacturer Total Gym, endorsed by the actor. Sponsors listed are KFC, Payless Shoes, Nutrisystem, Tylenol and Geico Insurance.

“Republicans long decried celebrities telling us how to vote,” says Ng. So, uh, is that why Ng’s own candidate, famous actor Fred Dalton Thompson, had to drop out?

Bruce Willis, Fred Thompson in Die Hard 2

Romney Picks Up Where He Left Off

In the early going, before the entrance of Fred Thompson and the rise of Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney set out to be the preferred candidate of the Religious Right.  And he was well positioned to do so, since Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were (and are) widely reviled by the Religious Right establishment and their supporters.  

Back then, Romney was hard at work meeting with Jerry Falwell and others, hobnobbing with right-wing leaders at their events, and buying victories in conservative straw polls.  But then Fred Thompson appeared on the scene and began siphoning off potential right-wing supporters while Mike Huckabee staked his claim as the most religious candidate in the field on his way to winning the support of a wide-range of Religious Right leaders.  

Through it all, Romney plodded along, picking up a handful of right-wing backer here and there, but the pickings were slim.  But now, with Thompson out of the race, it looks like things might be turning around for his campaign:

Joining Romney for President after having served as National Co-Chair of Lawyers for Fred Thompson, Victoria Toensing said, "Appointing strong judges is one of our President's most important responsibilities. The next President will make a number of appointments, and I am confident Governor Romney will nominate judges in the mold of President Bush's nominees, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. I am proud to work with Governor Romney and this outstanding group of legal minds."

Also joining the Advisory committee from Lawyers for Fred Thompson are Lizette D. Benedi, Rachel L. Brand, Reginald Brown, Charles J. Cooper, Joseph E. diGenova, Michael R. Dimino, Viet D. Dinh, Noel J. Francisco and Eileen J. O'Connor.

And with Huckabee’s campaign slowly collapsing due to lack of funds, Romney is able to starting picking up the support of right-wing leaders once again

Dennis Baxley, David Caton, Carole Griffin and Anthony Verdugo, representing over fifty years of combined pro-family leadership in Florida, support Mitt Romney in the Florida Presidential Preference Primary.

Mitt Romney is clearly the most conservative candidate among the top three competitive candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) appearing on the Florida Presidential Preference ballot in Florida.

Dennis Baxley is the incoming Executive Director for Christian Coalition of Florida and former Florida State Representative for District 24.

David Caton is the Executive Director of Florida Family Association.

Carole Griffin is a pro-family lobbyist in Tallahassee and heads the Eagle Forum in Florida.

Anthony Verdugo is the president of Christian Family Coalition.

So, with the field thinning, things are starting to look up for Romney, at least as far as being the Republican candidate most willing and able to pander to the Right is concerned.

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