The biggest barrier to Giuliani's road to the Republican nomination is the distrust felt towards him by the social conservatives that form the GOP's bedrock army of volunteers. New York's former Mayor came bottom of the vote at a recent conference of Christian conservatives. Today's news that leading evangelical Pat Robertson has endorsed Giuliani is consequently something of a coup for the man currently frontrunning the Republican race:
Here's some reaction on the blogosphere: "The endorsement of perhaps the best-known living Christian conservative cannot hurt the socially liberal New Yorker's chances. Mr Robertson, it seems, endorsed Mr Giuliani because "To me, the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists." - The Economist's Democracy in America.
"Just talked to a top social conservative. He says, hinting that more prominent social cons will end up going with Rudy, "There's plenty more where this comes from." On the impact of the Robertson endorsement on the race: "What it does for Rudy is it says, 'It's OK to vote for Rudy.' I think there will be more of that, pre-nomination and post-nomination." On conservative evangelical voters and Giuliani: "If Rudy is the nominee, they're going to vote for him—period." - Rich Lowry, National Review.
"McCain got the better of this one. Brownback is a human-rights-supporting representative of much that is admirable about religious conservatism. Robertson is a currying-favor-with-dictators voice from the past. Does Rudy really want his support?"
Bill Kristol is right. I'd rather have Brownback's Wilberforce Republicanism than Robertson's narrowness.
PS There's been quite a lot of discussion recently about the alleged decline of the religious right. The debate was started by a major feature in the New York Times. The video below from Gallup shows how trends in support for Bush from churchgoers are actually consistent with the rest of the population: