Former Candidate Brownback Endorses Republican McCain For President

Wednesday, November 7th 2007, 6:57 am
By: News On 6

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) _ Sam Brownback, a Kansas conservative and favorite of evangelical Christians, endorsed his former Republican presidential rival John McCain on Wednesday, calling him a friend and a hero.

The nod could provide a much-needed boost, particularly in Iowa, for the Arizona senator and one-time presumed GOP front-runner whose bid faltered and who now is looking for a comeback.

Brownback announced his support for McCain in Dubuque, Iowa, and was traveling with the candidate to campaign in two other cities in the state.

``John McCain is the only candidate who can rally the Reagan coalition of conservatives, independents and conservative Democrats needed to defeat Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in the general election next year,'' Brownback said in a statement.

He praised McCain for spending a lifetime ``standing up for human rights around the world, including a consistent 24-year pro-life record of protecting the rights of the unborn.''

McCain equally lavished praise on Brownback, saying his Senate colleague was ``a man of faith and compassion whose integrity and unwavering commitment to protecting the dignity of human life, both born and unborn, has been an inspiration to me.''

It's uncertain how much weight Brownback's backing will carry; the Kansas senator dropped out of the race last month with little money and less support. While he is a favorite of religious conservatives, he failed to persuade them to embrace him as the GOP's consensus conservative candidate. He spent months emphasizing his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and other issues important to the party's right, but left the race ranked low in polls.

Still, Brownback's backing could signal to evangelical Christians that they can trust McCain and could help solidify McCain's credentials on social issues. The endorsement could be especially important in Iowa, where McCain trails in polls.

Despite a solidly conservative Senate voting record on social issues, McCain has a rocky history with cultural and religious conservatives who make up a significant part of the Republican base _ and have proven to be influential in Iowa's GOP caucuses.

He once likened their leaders to ``agents of intolerance,'' but since has taken steps to heal his relationship with the voting group. Still, some are skeptical that McCain will be a loyal Republican who will champion their issues, in part because while his record is clear, he's not a high-profile crusader against abortion rights and gay marriage.

Other candidates in the crowded GOP field had lobbied for Brownback's support over the past few weeks.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister who has made strides in Iowa in recent weeks, was widely considered the other Republican most likely to get Brownback's endorsement. It's unclear whether Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator trying to emerge as the conservatives' choice, ever got a look from Brownback.

Brownback did talk to Rudy Giuliani, a backer of abortion rights and gay rights, and emerged from the meeting with kind words about the former New York mayor. Yet, days earlier, Brownback told reporters he saw no way in which the GOP would nominate a ``pro-choice'' Republican. Brownback spent months this summer bitterly criticizing Romney's shifts on social issues.