Rudy and the Christian Right

RUDY AND THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT….Here’s a passage from that David Kirkpatrick piece I linked to last night. The hook for the piece is a visit to Wichita, for many years considered ground zero for Christian right activism:

At the end of last month, [James] Dobson was the foremost among the roughly 50 Christian conservative organizers who declared they would support a third-party candidate if the nomination went to Giuliani, who is their greatest fear. Some even talk of McCain — once anathema to them — as a better bet.

I could see why they were worried. Among the evangelicals of suburban Wichita, I found that Giuliani was easily the most popular of the Republican candidates, even among churchgoers who knew his views on abortion and same-sex marriage. Some trusted him to fight Islamic radicalism; others praised his cleanup of New York.

Today:

The televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed Rudolph W. Giuliani today at the National Press Club in Washington, providing the former New York City Mayor with a big symbolic boost as he tries to allay the concerns of Christian conservatives about his candidacy.

The endorsement by Mr. Robertson could have some impact because of Mr. Robertson’s clout through the Christian Broadcasting Network, where Mr. Giuliani can deliver a central argument of his candidacy: that the threat of terrorism is too important and should outweigh voters’ concerns about his stand on abortion.

Now, Robertson is very clearly a member of the oldest of the old guard among Christian conservatives, and it’s unclear how much weight his endorsement carries. But — the whole point of Kirkpatrick’s piece, and several others I’ve read, is that the younger generation is less focused than the older guys on abortion and gay marriage as exclusive litmus tests for candidates. So this might be the canary in the coal mine. If even Robertson is willing cave on abortion and endorse Rudy, maybe some of the younger evangelicals will too. Stay tuned.