Has James Dobson Created an Opening for Mitt Romney?

Deal W. Hudson
October 8, 2007

Mitt Romney is seizing the opportunity created by Dr. James Dobson’s threat of a third party candidacy. The Massachusetts poll is positioning himself as the GOP candidate of choice for religious conservatives.

How? In a Boston Globe story from October 5, Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said, “Dr. Dobson is keeping an open mind on Mitt Romney, and I think this is because they do share in common so many values.”

In short, Romney wants to portray himself as the only major candidate with Dobson’s approval still in the running.

Dr. Dobson didn’t take the bait. The Boston Globe reporter, Michael Kranish, called Dobson to get a comment on the campaign statement, but he did not return the call.

No one can blame Romney for trying to fill in the vacuum created by Dobson’s negative comments on nearly all the GOP candidates. After all, Dobson has said nothing critical about Romney himself, only that Evangelicals would not be likely to vote for a Mormon.

“I don’t believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon, but that remains to be seen, I guess,” Dobson said on a national radio show October 2, 2006.

The signs are not good that Dobson will back Romney. Dobson’s attempt in Salt Lake City to rally other religious leaders to a third party cause came the day after Romney spoke to the same group.

If Dobson had been favorably impressed, he would not have carried through with his plan to lead his colleagues out of the GOP for the 2008 election.

By addressing Dobson publicly, the Romney campaign is taking a huge risk. Fehrnstrom argued that Dobson and Romney “may not agree on theology, but they share in common values like protecting the sanctity of life.”

This is a problematic issue for the Romney campaign to raise with pro-lifers like Dobson and other members of the Council on National Policy. Not only is Romney’s pro-life commitment of a recent vintage, it remains inconsistent on the very important issue of embryonic stem cell research.

Romney still supports research on “unwanted” or “discarded” frozen embryos from fertility clinics. He does draw the line at creating human clones for stem cell research.

As Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia has stated, “Any position that throws open the door to using the frozen embryos is going to be a position that Catholics and many other Christians will not be able to stand behind in any way.”

Romney and his campaign understand the apparent inconsistency in his position. Rev. Pacholczyk himself, and a number of other well-known Catholic pro-lifers have already discussed this issue with the Romney campaign.

It isn’t very likely that Dr. Dobson will take a pragmatic view of Romney’s position for the simple reason that the bulk of embryonic stem cell research derives its material from frozen embryos.

Thus, to be for embryonic stem cell research on frozen embryos and against it on human clones is effectively to be for embryonic stem cell research, because that’s how it’s presently being done.

In spite of the risk, the Romney campaign has asked Dr. Dobson to take another look at their candidate before pursuing the third party strategy.

This is a potent issue for religious conservatives. You may recall that Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) was considered the leading GOP presidential contender until he went on the Senate floor on July 29, 2005, to challenge President Bush’s restriction on federal funding for stem cell research.

Within forty-eight hours, Sen. Frist’s chances of a successful run for the nomination had evaporated. Religious conservatives felt betrayed and said so.

Mitt Romney has invited closer scrutiny from Dr. Dobson – whether Dobson will take the opportunity to criticize Romney on embryonic stem cells – as he has Fred Thompson for not supporting a federal marriage amendment – remains to be seen.

It’s a bold move from a candidate whose outreach to religious conservatives has been methodical and determined from the very beginning.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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