Dr. James Dobson, who has largely been made irrelevant to the 2008 Republican presidential race, has apparently found his man, and according to an adviser, is ready to change the landscape of the Republican nomination race.
"He is the leader of the evangelical and social conservative movement in America, and he's going to reassert that position and leave no doubt that he's in charge," says the adviser based in Colorado.
Sources close to Dobson say that within the next ten days he is coordinating an endorsement plan with the presidential campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. According to a Huckabee insider in Iowa, the event would be staged in that state at a rally, followed by a bus tour across the state, and an appearance by Huckabee on Dobson's radio show, which is heard nationally.
Dobson's endorsement, according to the Huckabee source, could mean millions in fundraising to the campaign, allowing it to compete at the same level with the top tier candidates Huckabee has been inching toward in the polls after a series of strong debate and campaign appearances.
"It would help us get to the Thompson-McCain level if not higher," says the source. "Dr. Dobson's endorsement means that much."
Dobson's endorsement might also create a domino effect, as other evangelical and social conservatives have largely been withholding their endorsements, in part out of fear of angering Dobson and his many supporters who also fill crucial slots in other social conservative organizations run by such prominent leaders as Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins. Both men have been assisting multiple campaigns, with Bauer recently saying that he was providing advice to just about every campaign that sought his counsel.
"We've never seen the movement this indecisive leading into a time when endorsements are usually pretty important for creating momentum into the real campaign season," says a conservative activist in Washington who attends a weekly social conservative coalition meeting hosted by Sen. Sam Brownback.
Brownback's endorsement of Sen. John McCain earlier this week is also expected to help McCain with social conservative groups that have been sitting on the fence. "There is a bit more momentum there than there was a couple of months ago," says an Iowa social conservative who has now signed on with McCain. "Two weeks ago, I was going with Huckabee, now I'm with McCain."
UPDATE, Friday 2:08 p.m.
Tim Minnery, Senior Vice President for Focus on the Family, Dobson's organization, denied on Friday afternoon that Dobson intended to endorse Huckabee in the coming days. Minnery's denial was submitted to the Spectator after Dobson received calls from other social conservative leaders inquiring about the leaked endorsement plans from the Huckabee campaign and Dobson associates. "Dr. Dobson isn't close to an endorsement of anyone in the 2008 race," Minnery wrote in an email to the editor denying there was an endorsement planned.
Contacted again by The American Spectator, those who initially spoke on background about the Dobson endorsement insisted that as of last night, plans were being put in place by the Huckabee campaign for an announcement and endorsement tour, and stood by their account. Rumors about a potential Dobson endorsement of Huckabee have been swirling in Washington for several days, and would have come at a time when other social conservatives are beginning a serious run on endorsement events. The board of the National Right to Life Committee is holding a meeting this weekend to discuss a potential endorsement strategy, and Dr. Donald Wildmon in the past 24 hours has endorsed Huckabee.
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