WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson downplayed Mike Huckabee's recent rise in the Iowa polls, and said Sunday it should not be credited to his conservative appeal, but rather "some religious leaders and church people."
"I mean, they're a cohesive group and well-organized," the former Tennessee senator said in an interview on CBS' 'Face the Nation.' "And he has worked them very, very hard. And, you know, when you're talking about a relatively few votes, a group such as that can do you a lot of good politically."
Thompson added that "liberal is the only word that comes to mind" when describing rival Huckabee's record as Arkansas governor. Thompson also took aim at Mitt Romney, calling him an inconsistent conservative.
"I'm not sure how you would ever determine how Mitt would govern in the future if you looked at his past, in comparison to what he's saying today," Thompson said of the former Massachusetts governor.
The Thompson campaign continues to unleash a barrage of negative mailers and campaign statements in the Hawkeye State aimed at the two former governors.
Thompson, who has slipped to third behind Huckabee and Romney in most recent Iowa polls, said that there's "no question" he needs to do well in the caucuses, which will take place in roughly three weeks.
He also repeated his campaign trail calls for a tougher immigration policy and stronger border security. The issue is a central one among Republicans in most early-voting states.
"I think that if [immigrants] know they can't go back and forth across the border, if they know that they're not going to be working here indefinitely, if they know they're not going to be protected from the law essentially in these cities, that they'll go back on their own accord," Thompson said. "Obviously, not all of them, and not overnight. But it will move in the right direction. That's the only thing that we can do."
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand