The nation's largest pro-life organization officially endorsed Fred Thompson for president Tuesday, saying the former senator is the "best-positioned" pro-life candidate who can beat front-runner and abortion supporter Rudy Giuliani.
The National Right to Life Committee's announcement at the National Press Club Tuesday is expected to give Thompson's campaign a much needed boost.
"While there are various polls, and some are up-and-down, the overwhelming consensus has been that he is best-positioned to top pro-abortion candidate Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination," said the group's executive director, David N. O'Steen.
"Also, looking at polls against the likely Democrats, he is well-positioned, and we believe best positioned, to win the presidency of the United States for unborn children."
The group said it also decided to back Thompson because of his strong and consistent pro-life record throughout his political career. Not only does the former Tennessee senator believe the 1973 Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade should be reversed, the NRLC noted, but he has always opposed during his eight-year tenure in the Senate federal spending to promote or finance abortions and supported pro-life measures such as the parental notification laws.
Furthermore, Thompson opposes embryonic stem cell research, according to the group.
In recent days, Thompson's position on abortion has been scrutinized after he told "Meet the Press" two Sundays ago that he would not support a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions, which parts ways with the Republican Party's national platform.
Responding to criticism, the Republican presidential hopeful maintained that he was "100-percent pro-life" and defended his pro-life voting record. He said that while he personally opposes abortion, he believed such abortion laws should be decided by states.
Despite the group's disagreement with Thompson on a federal ban on all abortions, Wanda Franz, president of the organization, affirmed him as their primary choice for the White House.
"Our endorsement is a testament to Senator Thompson's long-standing pro-life record, his commitment to unborn children, and our belief in his ability to win," Franz said in a statement Tuesday.
NRLC political director Karen Cross said Thompson's pro-life position will give him a "distinct advantage" in the presidential race.
"In every major election since 1980, pro-life candidates have fared better than pro-abortion candidates among those voters who base their vote on a candidate's position on abortion," said Cross at the news conference.
The pro-life organization endorsement comes just one week after televangelist and founder of Christian Broadcasting Network Pat Robertson made the move to back former New York mayor Giuliani.
Other prominent conservatives have also recently announced their endorsements. Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich is supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Don Wildmon, founder of the 3-million-strong American Association Family, is supporting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Hucakbee.
O'Steen contended that the endorsement from the group, which boasts 3,000 chapters nationwide, carries more weight than individual endorsements.
He said Monday that the endorsement would prompt "pro-life people across the nation to coalesce" behind Thompson.
Thompson said that he is "deeply appreciative" for organization's support.
"I am blessed and grateful to have received their endorsement for president of the United States," he said in a statement. "In supporting me, those who have worked tirelessly to defend life are supporting a consistent conservative who has stood with them yesterday, who stands with them today, and will stand with them tomorrow."
An updated USA Today/Gallup poll, released Nov. 7, on the Republican race put Thompson in third with 17 percent, trailing Giuliani, who leads at 34 percent, and Senator John McCain at 18 percent.