Fred Thompson's official announcement he is running for president merited headline coverage in Baptist Press, while last spring's announcement by one of Southern Baptists' own, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, did not.
Last Thursday Baptist Press welcomed Thompson's official entry into the campaign as "another top-tier choice" for social conservatives. Thompson's religious background is murky. He is officially identified with the Church of Christ but EthicsDaily.com reported last week he has been seen attending a church affiliated with mainline Presbyterian Church-USA located in the Washington suburbs. EthicsDaily.com found scant evidence of Thompson attending church.
A former Southern Baptist pastor and past president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Huckabee announced Jan. 28 on "Meet the Press" he was forming a presidential exploratory committee.
EthicsDaily.com carried a story about his appearance Jan. 31, but the Southern Baptist Convention news service ignored it until March 19, in a story featuring a book by Huckabee published by the SBC publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources.
Huckabee's next headline mention in Baptist Press wasn't until May 21, when he withdrew from a New Baptist Covenant Celebration planned for next January in Atlanta in protest of statements by former President Jimmy Carter, who is spearheading the effort, critical of President Bush.
Weeks after throwing his hat in the ring, Huckabee wasn't mentioned in a March 12 BP story quoting Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, saying he would sit out the 2008 election if it came down to a choice between former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former first lady Hillary Clinton. The story included Land's thoughts on other GOP candidates John McCain, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Huckabee was included in an April 19 roundup about candidates' reaction to a Supreme Court ruling upholding a "partial-birth" abortion ban.
A May 4 story on a GOP presidential debate led with Giuliani's breaking with the pack over whether overturning Roe v. Wade would be a good thing. The first mention of Huckabee was buried in paragraph 16.
Baptist Press drew attention to Huckabee May 11 in a story describing him, along with Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo, as three of 10 candidates who did not raise their hands to indicate they believe in evolution.
BP coverage of the second GOP presidential debate also led with Giuliani. Huckabee was quoted 10 paragraphs deep as the first of other candidates disagreeing with Giuliani's views.
An "ELECTION 08" wrapup May 18 led with James Dobson saying he wouldn't vote for Giuliani, while including three paragraphs about Huckabee saying abortion is a "critical" issue.
Huckabee arguably got more attention from BP when he wasn't running for president. The news service carried a 1,500-word profile of Huckabee in January, as he stepped down as governor of Arkansas.
In February 2005 BP covered a rally led by Huckabee and his wife, Janet, in support of "covenant marriage." The news service carried six headlines about Huckabee in 2003.
A week ago Huckabee indicated on national television he didn't believe the leadership of his own denomination wasn't taking his candidacy seriously enough.
On ABC News "This Week" Sept. 2, host George Stephanopoulos invited Huckabee to respond to a quote by Richard Land, "We like Mike a lot, but nobody thinks he can beat Hillary, and the fear of another Clinton White House outweighs almost everything."
Huckabee quipped: "All these years I've been paying my tithes to the Southern Baptist churches I belonged to, I'm thinking maybe I ought to get some of my money back if Richard is not going to be a little more supportive."
Huckabee said Land is wrong, because he assumes someone more like Clinton will beat her.
"Quite frankly Americans are going to look at a contest where there are contrasts," he said. "That's what I bring to the race, someone who can contrast in terms of philosophy and record, but also who's going to be able to challenge her on key fundamental issues like education and healthcare, where I've had not just some experience dealing with it, but some real results solving some of the issues the rest of America is looking for."
Huckabee described Sen. Clinton as "a strong, strong candidate, much stronger than a lot of Republicans want to accept. But the reality is that if we put someone up whose views on some of the issues that rally our base don't rally our base, then we are going to be in big trouble."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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