WASHINGTON -- Televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed Rudolph W. Giuliani's campaign yesterday, a surprising embrace that underscored the divisions among Christian conservatives about the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
Alone, Robertson's support of the former New York mayor was unusual for a Christian conservative who once blamed the 2001 terrorist attacks on American sins such as abortion and a social liberal who supports abortion rights and gay rights.
But coming the same day that another prominent Christian conservative -- Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas -- endorsed Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and two days after influential conservative Paul Weyrich endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, it was a fresh sign that one of the most influential blocs of voters in the party remains splintered.
That's good news for Giuliani. It suggests that Christian conservatives aren't ready to coalesce behind any single candidate and are unable to stop Giuliani from winning the nomination.
Yet the competing endorsements could raise the profile of social issues such as abortion just as Giuliani is working to keep primary voters focused instead on the threat of terrorism and the promise of tax cuts.
Like many Christian conservatives who support Giuliani, Robertson suggested yesterday that other issues -- such as fighting terrorism, cutting taxes or reducing crime -- trump social issues.
"Rudy Giuliani took a city that was in decline and considered ungovernable and reduced its violent crime, revitalized its core, dramatically lowered its taxes, cut through a welter of bureaucratic regulations and did so in the spirit of bipartisanship, which is so urgently needed in Washington today," Robertson said.