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Thompson attacks rivals, calls himself the true conservative

    KENNESAW — Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson on Thursday cast himself as the true conservative in the Republican race for president and accused his GOP rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney of being soft on illegal immigration.
    ‘‘I was walking the walk when others weren’t even talking the talk yet,’’ Thompson said at an appearance with supporters in Georgia.
    He said he voted in 1996 to outlaw sanctuary cities, where city employees are not required to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
    ‘‘Along about that same time, mayor Giuliani was supporting the concept of sanctuary cities,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘Gov. Romney certainly didn’t say anything against sanctuary cities until recently.’’
    Thompson said that to know where he would be on bedrock conservative issues one merely has to look at his record.
    ‘‘I was a conservative then. I am a conservative today and I will be a conservative tomorrow,’’ he said.
    The Romney and Giuliani camps pointed to Thompson’s vote against a stricter employment verification system and a measure that would have blocked illegal immigrants from receiving certain benefits.
    ‘‘Senator Thompson’s missing a few pages from his screenplay,’’ Giuliani spokesman Elliot Bundy said.
    A Romney spokeswoman lumped Thompson together with Giuliani, who they have been attacking on the immigration issue.
    ‘‘Both Mayor Giuliani and Fred Thompson have embraced immigration policies that weaken our nation’s ability to secure our borders and stop the flow of illegal immigration,’’ spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said.
    In his first visit to Georgia since announcing he was entering the presidential race, Thompson on Thursday stressed his conservative bona fides on taxes, national security and welfare reform as well as what he said was his strong opposition to abortion.
    Asked by a reporter about the lobbying work he did on behalf of National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, an abortion rights group, Thompson said Thursday he had no regrets.
    ‘‘That was private life,’’ Thompson said.
    ‘‘Those people now are coming out of the woodwork now because I’m their worst nightmare,’’ he said. ‘‘I proceeded to go the United States Senate and vote against them consistently for eight years so now they’re trying to defeat me.’’
    Thompson picked up the endorsement on Thursday of the sheriff and district attorney in heavily Republican Cobb County. He was also scheduled to attend a pair of fundraisers in Georgia.

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