They’ve been saying it for months. “They” are self-appointed spokespersons for social conservatives, especially conservative Christians – “they” are the ones the news media go to when they want to take the pulse of social conservatives. And what they’ve been saying is that “They may support him now, but once social conservatives realize his position on [pick the issue: guns, abortion, homosexual rights, his personal life], they’ll turn away from Rudy Giuliani.” However, regardless of what the “experts” think, Rudy Giuliani remains the frontrunner among socially conservative voters.
A June 5th article posted on Christianity Today’s website quotes Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, saying, “I think a lot of evangelicals are just getting to know Rudy…As they get to know him—not as the hero of 9/11 but as a supporter of tax-funded abortions—his support will decline precipitously.”
What is there that conservative evangelical voters don’t know about Rudy Giuliani? His personal position on abortion, gays, local gun control regulations, his personal life, even the fact that he dressed as a woman at various fund-raising events when he was mayor of New York, have been splashed all over the internet and the mainstream media for months. And yet Giuliani continues to be the frontrunner among conservative evangelicals and other stripes of social conservatives.
A May 28 article on Politico reported a recent poll and analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showing that Giuliani is the frontrunner among conservative evangelical voters, earning the support of 30% of this group compared to 22% support for Sen. John McCain. The Pew poll also found that 44% of social conservatives believe that Mayor Giuliani has the best chance of becoming the next President. And despite Richard Land’s view that as social conservatives get to know Giuliani “his support will decline precipitously,” the Pew survey found that evangelical voters are actually much more tuned-in to this presidential election than the average voter. The Pew survey found that 31% of self-identified social conservatives have given the 2008 presidential candidates “a lot” of thought, while only 23% of other Republicans have given the race the same level of scrutiny.
To explain the frontrunner status of Mayor Giuliani, John Green, a senior fellow at Pew who compiled the survey, said, “A significant number of social conservatives have adopted a pragmatic line.” Mr. Green is quoted in Christianity Today saying that he believes issues like abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage “are fading a little bit” as many states have banned gay marriage and evangelicals turn their attention to other issues. “They still care about social issues, but many also care about national security, economic issues, and the environment. It very well may be that Giuliani appeals to evangelicals on these other issues,” Green said.
Returning to Mr. Land, there appears to be a hint of desperation in his analysis of the race and where conservative evangelicals may come down in this election. To cite the Christianity Today article, “Land believes that even if evangelicals overlook Giuliani’s abortion record, they will struggle to overcome his broken marriages. ‘He promised at least two wives that he’d love, honor, and cherish—till death do you part—and he broke his promises to them,’ Land said. ‘Three spouses is at least one spouse too many for most evangelicals.’”
The abortion red-flag doesn’t seem to be working to undermine the Mayor’s standing among evangelicals, so go to Plan B.
Aside from the odd implication made by Land that having two spouses is now perfectly OK for “most evangelicals,” the personal issue of a candidate’s divorces seems a peculiar issue over which to fall on one’s sword. Mr. Land, representing Southern Baptists in Washington, is skating on thin ice if he adopts divorce as his make-or-break issue. George Barna, the pollster who has made a career of surveying and analyzing the attitudes, beliefs, and lifestyles of evangelical Christians, noted in a report published in 1999 that among all Christian denominations, the one with the highest divorce rate are the Baptists.
Being married only once won’t balance the federal budget, enhance the security of America, reduce the size of government, defend and expand liberty, or win the war on terror. A good number of evangelical voters understand this, apparently much to the consternation of some self-appointed evangelical leaders. My wife said it best recently: “I might not want to be in a relationship with Rudy, but I want him defending this nation.”