In a speech to 2,000 conservative evangelicals at the Family Research Council's "Values Voters Summit" in Washington, Republican Fred Thompson made some headway with conservative Christians who've been left uninspired during the desultory days of his first month on the presidential campaign trail.
Thompson used personal experience to court them, with references to his own plan to pray and to what he characterized as the life-changing experience of seeing a sonogram of his unborn daughter.
Late in his speech, Thompson said he's been asked what he'd do in his first 100 days as president. His answer, he said, is "I don't really know—it would depend on the circumstances."
"But," he said, "I know what I would do the first hour: Go into the Oval Office, close the door, and pray for the wisdom to do what was right." The crowd was quickly on its feet, warmly applauding; it was his best-received sentiment of the day.
Earlier, when laying out his antiabortion bona fides, Thompson focused, emotionally at times, on his role as a father, including the "ultimate tragedy" of the death of an adult daughter from his first marriage and the "ultimate blessing" of the birth of a child.
Thompson, who has two young children with his second wife, told the audience that his political record and his "head" have always been against abortion, but it took seeing the first sonogram of his now 3-year-old daughter, Hayden, to transform him.
"My heart, he said, "is now fully engaged with my head."
His biggest competition for conservative support, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was scheduled to address the evangelicals tonight. In prepared remarks, he said that " the family is a vital economic unit, the foundation of our nation. And it is the strength of this nation's families that ultimately determines America's strength in the family of nations." Rudy Giuliani, who is leading national GOP presidential preference polls--and supports legal abortion and opposes a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage--was to enter the lion's den Saturday.
All the GOP candidates accepted invitations to speak to the evangelicals. The results of a straw poll of attendees and online voters will be announced Saturday.