Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson picked up a rare endorsement from a religious leader--a Southern Baptist layman credited with rescuing the nation's second largest faith group from what he and others viewed as a liberal drift.
"Fred Thompson has the experience, convictions and dedication to make him a great candidate and a great president," retired Texas Court of Appeals Judge Paul Pressler said in an endorsement on Thompson's Web site.
Pressler described Thompson as "the consistent conservative" in the presidential race and "the most electable" of the Republican candidates.
Pressler's endorsement of Thompson follows several endorsements from Southern Baptist Convention leaders for Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister and past president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
But Pressler, co-architect of the "conservative resurgence" movement that systematically removed moderates from leadership posts and replaced them with conservatives through appointments by the SBC president, said he is under the impression that most of Huckabee's appointments while president of the Arkansas convention 1989-91 were part of the moderate "establishment."
Pressler told the conservative Web site Human Events he "didn't know of any conservatives" that were appointed by Huckabee, but that wouldn't stop him from voting for him if he were the nominee. "He is a Bible-believing Christian, nice, capable," Pressler said. "I could support Mike enthusiastically."
The Thompson campaign said Pressler "is revered among Southern Baptists as a warrior and hero" for his involvement in denominational life.
Thompson called him a "leader of great integrity."
"In his private life, he has been a stalwart conservative leader in the Southern Baptist Convention and is deeply respected and influential," Thompson said. "I appreciate his confidence in me, my consistent record, and my plans for our country."