— James Dobson, one of the nation's most prominent evangelical...leaders, is about to endorse former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, The Associated Press has learned.
Dobson, founder of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, talked to the GOP presidential hopeful Thursday and later was to release a statement explaining his choice, said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Dobson.
Huckabee had long sought Dobson's endorsement, believing he is the best fit to advance Dobson's conservative, moral worldview.
Until now, Dobson had never endorsed a GOP presidential hopeful during the primary campaign. But he ruled out front-runner John McCain in a blistering commentary on Super Tuesday, and on Thursday the fight for the GOP nomination narrowed to a two-man race between McCain and Huckabee, who is far behind in the delegate count but pledged to fight on. Mitt Romney, a third hopeful trying to claim the conservative label, dropped out of the race Thursday.
Dobson released a statement Tuesday that criticized McCain for his support of embryonic stem cell research, his opposition to a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and for his temper and use of foul language.
He said if McCain were the nominee, he would not cast a ballot for president for the first time in his life.
Dobson had left open the possibility that he would vote for either Romney or Huckabee, but endorsed neither.
Throughout the unsettled GOP race, Dobson picked his spots to signal that some candidates simply didn't meet his standards. Dobson wrote on a conservative news Web site that he wouldn't support former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani should he win the Republican nomination. Dobson called Giuliani an "unapologetic supporter of abortion on demand" and criticized him for signing a bill in 1997 creating domestic-partnership benefits in New York City.
At one point, Dobson said he'd consider voting for a minor-party candidate if faced with Giuliani as the nominee.
Later, Dobson ruled out former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson for his stands on issues. Dobson also said Thompson "has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to.'"
Dobson emphasizes that when he endorses candidates, he is doing so as a private citizen and not as a representative of Focus on the Family, a tax-exempt organization.