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Dobson: Thompson must express faith

Story Highlights

• Dr. James Dobson called on Fred Thompson to express Christian faith
• Dobson in an interview said of Thompson "I don't think he's a Christian"
• Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is an influential evangelical leader
• Thompson considering a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As senator turned actor Fred Thompson considers a presidential run, his Christian credentials are being questioned by Dr. James Dobson, a major voice among Christian conservative voters.

Republican strategist Rich Galen saw this as a positive thing.

"If I'm advising Fred Thompson, which I'm not, I'd say 'Good news! We're big enough that someone like Dobson has to pay attention to us,' " he said. (Watch why some in GOP think actor is Mr. Right Video)

In an interview with "U.S. News & World Report," Dobson said, "I don't think he's a Christian."

A Thompson spokesman quickly contested Dobson's statement, saying "Thompson is indeed a Christian. He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

But a declaration of Thompson's religion will not be enough for Dobson, who is viewed as being widely influential with evangelical Christians, a key Republican voting bloc.

"We were pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer," said Nima Reza, a Dobson spokesman. "Thompson hasn't clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him."

Why did that come up now, even before Thompson, a star of NBC's "Law and Order" and a former GOP Tennessee senator, has committed to running for president?

Dobson has shown so far he's not a believer in any of the front-running Republican candidates. He gave Mitt Romney a lukewarm review and said he couldn't support Sen. John McCain or frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. It signals a split among evangelicals.

"They're looking for someone to head off Rudy Giuliani. Some evangelicals want Thompson to be that person. But others want Newt Gingrich," said Dr. Charles Dunn of Regent University.

Dobson recently had Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, on his radio show, where the former house speaker admitted an extramarital affair.

"I asked you if the rumors were true that you were in an affair with a woman, obviously, who wasn't your wife at the same time that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were having their escapade?" Dobson asked.

"Well, the fact is the honest answer is yes," Gingrich said.

Dobson has not endorsed any candidates. He told "U.S. News & World Report" that he thinks Gingrich is the "brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today."

CNN's Mary Snow contributed to this report


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A possible presidential campaign by former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, is creating a buzz within conservative circles.

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