With Republican Fred Thompson out of the running, GOP presidential candidates stepped up their attention on Tennessee Monday, with two of them picking up key endorsements.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was endorsed by 12 GOP state lawmakers, including House GOP Leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol and former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn. Romney also picked up the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-7th District.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, won the endorsement of Tennessee Right to Life (TRL), the statewide anti-abortion advocacy group.
“For pro-life Tennesseans, the election of a sincere, proven pro-life president is paramount,” TRL President Brian Harris said in a prepared release. “Our members recognize Mike Huckabee as ‘one of us’ and that enthusiasm is driven by his demonstrated record of leadership and sacrifice toward the shared cause of protecting life.”
TRL cited Huckabee’s Arkansas leadership in banning partial birth abortion and having parental notification for minor daughters seeking abortion, along with other pro-life measures. Huckabee sought other endorsements on Monday during meetings with Republican state lawmakers in Nashville.
“What I accomplished as governor proves that there is a lot more that a pro-life president can do than wait for a Supreme Court vacancy, and I will do everything I can to promote a pro-life agenda and pass pro-life legislation,” Huckabee said in a TRL release. “If I am saddled with a Democrat Congress, I’ll veto any pro-abortion legislation they pass. I will staff all relevant positions with pro-life appointees. I will use the bully pulpit to change hearts and minds, to move this country from a culture of death to a culture of life.”
Over the weekend, Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign announced that former Tennessee U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. has endorsed McCain for president. Baker had served as honorary national chair to Thompson’s campaign for president.
In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s Tennessee co-chair, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, said Obama’s campaign is gaining momentum after winning big in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday.
“It’s an important time for Tennesseans to make up their minds as February 5th approaches,” Cooper, D-5th District, said in a conference call with reporters. “I think if Tennessee had voted differently in 2000, Al Gore would have been president of the United States.”
Cooper recalled Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s failed effort in the last decade to pass a universal health care plan when she was the nation’s first lady.
“I dug out an old picture of a health care visit I made to her West Wing office,” Cooper said. “It reminded me of those days. It also reminded me of why I think Barack Obama would do a better job of bringing people together, unifying Democrats, Republicans and independents so we can finally get the universal health care coverage we deserve.”
In a separate conference call, the campaign of former North Carolina U.S. Sen. John Edwards insisted he is still in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination despite a disappointing third-place finish in the South Carolina Democratic primary. Edwards campaigned in Chattanooga and Nashville on Monday.
“We believe John will be competitive in all 22 February 5th states holding primaries and caucuses,” said campaign manager and former Michigan congressman David Bonior, who announced that the campaign has bought media advertising in 10 states.
“We saw in South Carolina that once people had a chance to directly hear from John, the (poll) numbers moved,” Bonior added.
Early voting in the Feb. 5 presidential primary is under way and continues through Friday.