RUDY AND THE EVANGELICALS….Rich Lowry on Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani:

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.”

This strikes me as right. The real core issue of the Christian right has always been “moral decay.” Increased acceptance of abortion and gay rights are symptoms of this, and they get most of the attention, but moral decay itself has always been the bedrock fear that drives everything else.

And of all the GOP candidates on offer today, which one is most obviously prepared to kick moral decay’s ass? I don’t even have to say it, do I?

Of course, that still leaves open the question of whether Rudy can inspire Christian conservatives. It’s one thing to be “OK” to vote for Rudy, but it’s quite another to actually vote for Rudy — especially if many of the movement’s most influential leaders actively oppose him. After all, Karl Rove famously believed that four million evangelicals didn’t bother voting in 2000, and that was for a candidate who was far more than just OK. If four million evangelicals couldn’t be bothered to vote for George Bush in 2000, even though he was more plainly one of them than any candidate in recent history, what will they do if Rudy is on the ballot?

POSTSCRIPT: Another interesting question: what about the moderate evangelicals? If David Kirkpatrick is right, a lot of them are less focused on abortion and gay marriage than their elders, and therefore might be more open to a social moderate like Rudy. On the other hand, he also says that a lot of them are turned off by the war, and Rudy is certainly the most aggressively pro-war candidate out there. So what will they do?

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