Gary Bauer has bowed out of the presidential race, but his high political profile already has attracted some conservative Christian disquiet.

"I am a little surprised by the vehemence, but I did think I would get some reaction" to staying in the political arena to endorse presidential contender John McCain, Bauer says.

"I am getting lots of mail and phone calls repeating the untrue charges that McCain is proabortion, has two illegitimate children, and curses," Bauer says.

The former Family Research Council (FRC) president withdrew from the GOP presidential primaries after his loss in New Hampshire in February.

After Bauer's endorsement, James Dobson of Focus on the Family circulated a letter—as a private citizen—questioning whether McCain would make prolife appointments if elected president.

At the moment, Bauer's home is still the campaign trail. Some critics at the FRC let him know that he would not be welcomed back. Some cited an organizational confusion that Bauer left behind. Others, more sympathetic to Bauer, believe his Republican activism would clash with the nonprofit organization's nonpartisan stance.

Bauer says he knew that many would not welcome his return to FRC. Last fall, an internal survey showed more than 60 percent of FRC staff members believed that somebody with a politically partisan high profile should not lead FRC.

Staff members interviewed by CHRISTIANITY TODAY say most people took this to mean that Gary Bauer should not come back as the center's president.

Bauer shrugs off the FRC flap, saying he is now engaged in saving the election prospects of the Republican Party. "I think that if the battle between these two men [George W. Bush and McCain] is so nasty, we may as well send an engraved invitation to Al Gore to be the next president," he tells CT.

Bauer spoke up in South Carolina against what he sees as smear tactics against McCain. "I was offended by the phone calls being made," Bauer says. "As Christians, we have an obligation to disavow this type of smear and rumor-mongering." Bauer will not cite any specific evangelical leader for the offensive calls, but notes that "the record is out there."

Weekly Standard editor and Bauer friend William Kristol says he thinks Bauer "feels that he is trying to save the honor of religious conservatives because he believes Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson have behaved so dishonorably by being part of the Bush attack machine."

Bauer also is disturbed by the dangers of losing conservative Catholic Democrats in the fall elections. McCain campaigners have charged that Bush's visit to fundamentalist Bob Jones University raised the specter of anti-Catholic bigotry.

"I would not speak at Bob Jones University unless in my speech I made it clear that I differ with the university in the way they express their differences with Catholics," Bauer says.

Bauer plans to "follow my political heroes Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill" and stay in politics.

"I signaled to the board of FRC that I was not coming back. I am going to take on the corruption in Washington."

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