Fear of Rudy on the right?

James Abtlle III:

Some influential social conservatives seem to be warming up to the presidential candidacy of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani was reasonably well-received at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes called it “unquestionably a net plus for his presidential bid.” Christian right leader Gary Bauer said Giuliani’s remarks were “a step forward.”

Perhaps most importantly, Giuliani elicited laughter and applause rather than boos and jeers from an audience of 2,000 evangelical activists.

Last week, Giuliani sat down with a vanquished rival for the Republican nomination, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, and talked about social issues. Afterward, Brownback, one of the party’s leading anti-abortion voices, announced he was “much more comfortable” with Giuliani’s abortion position. Some observers even wondered if a Brownback endorsement of Giuliani might be in the offing, though none has materialized yet.

A few more examples like these, and you will begin to hear stories about a split on the religious right. On one side, there will be idealists like James Dobson, who has threatened to bolt the Republican Party should Giuliani, a supporter of abortion rights, be the nominee. On the other, there will be pragmatists like Brownback who are willing to give Giuliani a hearing — and maybe even their support.

There’s just one problem with this narrative: Giuliani’s socially conservative critics have serious pragmatic, as well as purely idealistic, reasons to oppose his nomination.

Their anti-Giuliani campaign has already yielded one practical result: It has forced the Republican front-runner further to the right on social issues than ever seemed likely.

Giuliani has gone from supporting taxpayer-funded abortion to pledging to veto attempts to weaken the Hyde Amendment. He has gone from opposing a “partial-birth” abortion ban to being in favor of one. He has gone from outspokenly opposing a constitutional amendment to block same-sex marriage to saying he would consider one if the courts interfere with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Yet differences with the religious right remain. The socially conservative case for Giuliani is based on a single election cycle: Rudy may not be perfect, the argument goes, but he is better than Hillary Rodham Clinton and can defeat her in a general election.

When Bush was running in 2000 the media pestered him on the question of abortion suggesting his position would cost him votes and that if he would only moderate his position he could pick up more support. Bush's response was that he would also lose support. It is obviously an issue with trade offs. What Antille is trying to say, is that Rudy was not truthful when he told the conservative Christians they had nothing to fear from him as President. I believe Rudy on this one.


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