Republican senator Sam Brownback announced his bid for the presidency in early 2007, after spending the night in the Louisiana State Penitentiary to promote faith-based prison programs. He withdrew from the race on Friday, October 19. Brownback talked with Christianity Today before speaking at United for Life's annual banquet in late September.
What you would do for prison reform if you were elected?
I put quite a bit [about my plan for prison reform] in a bill called the Second Chance Act. The thrust of it is to build relationships with men and women in prison, so that when they get out, they don't commit the crime again. Our target is to cut recidivism rates in half in five years. The key way to do that is with faith-based initiatives that work with the soul and then build relationships so that when [prisoners] get out, they won't go to the same old group of friends who helped drag them down.
Do you see abortion as a significant part of this campaign?
I see it as the lead moral issue of our day, just like slavery was the lead moral issue 150 years ago.
Why do you think evangelicals are not rallying behind you in light of your pro-life stance?
There's a combination of things. One is that I am not as highly visible as some of the other candidates. Second, we haven't raised the amount of funds that some of other candidates have. I think there is a general position on our side that people are watching and waiting. They're waiting to see the candidates run for a while before [they] decide. It is very early. Some people are tired, just of politics, saying, "I'm just weary."
At what point would you withdraw from the race?
I'm not going to. I have said we need to finish in the top four in the Iowa caucuses. We just haven't gotten hardly any media coverage, particularly if you compare me to Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. We have got to crack through that, but the only way to do that is to perform, perform in the states.
Do you plan to continue President Bush's compassionate conservatism?
Absolutely. The core of why I am running is to rebuild the family, renew the culture, and revive the economy so we can grow and prosper and sustain ourselves in this generation-long fight with militant Islamists.
How do you plan to deal with immigration?
Enforce the borders. I think what we've got to do is integrate the social security number with ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement). We need to overlay that with immigration service, so you get work-side enforcement that is stronger, and border enforcement. I support building a fence.
What about the families of illegal immigrants who are already here? Would you support their deportation?
If people are here illegally and we catch them, that's the law. I would like to see us over time, not now, but see us over time do some form of a guest worker program. But I think the people have spoken very clearly now. What the people want to see is the law enforced.
Why do you think evangelicals should vote for you instead of another candidate?
I think I represent their values. At my core, what I think we need to do is to get the basics right again. We need to rebuild our family structure, stay away from redefining marriage, and stand by marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It is a vast social experiment to walk away from that definition. It seems as though we are rushing into this as if it is has no consequence.
Is there anything else you wanted to add?
I think the next president needs to lead on cultural issues and experience, particularly on foreign policy. I have chaired the Middle East subcommittee, and I chaired the South Asian subcommittee. The next president needs to know foreign policy and not learn it on the job.
My wife and I have five children; [we have been] married 25 years. I think that would be a package most [Americans] would be very comfortable with, if not delighted to see.
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News about Brownback's night in prison in December 2006 includes:
Cellblock Campaign | Sam Brownback launches an unorthodox presidential campaign in an unusual wayby spending a night in a prison cell. (subscription required, World Magazine)
'08 Presidential Hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) Spends Night in Prison | Sen. Sam Brownback took his budding presidential campaign to prison this weekend, spent a restless night among inmates and pressed his message that faith can work even to improve the lives of hardened criminals. (Associated Press)
Christianity Today's coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign includes:
Faith-Talk Surprise | Presidential candidates deviate from the usual religious scripts. (October 9, 2007)
Latter-Day Politics | Mitt Romney believes American values, not Mormon doctrine, should rule a President. (September 26, 2007)
The Giuliani Choice | Conservative leaders doubt his support among evangelicals will last. (June 5, 2007)
Mitt's Mormonism and the 'Evangelical Vote' | Can conservative Protestants vote for a member of what they consider a cult? (May 31, 2007)
Q+A: Hugh Hewitt | Conservative blogger, political analyst, and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Romney's bid for the White House. (February 27, 2007)
God's Will in the Public Square | Democratic Senator Barack Obama gets it mostly right. (September 1, 2006)
More Christianity Today coverage of politics and law is available on our site.