This will hardly be the first time religious conservatives have asked that question. Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize the importance of Pat Roberston’s endorsement, because it is a strong boost to Giuliani.
It won’t move as many votes as it would have ten years ago, but evangelicals (and Pentecostals) watch the “700 Club” and the Christian Broadcasting Network in large numbers. Robertson has a significant following, and with the death of Jerry Falwell remains the most visible founding father of the religious right who is still politically active. And it pretty much closes the door on the emergence of any “consensus” social conservative alternative to Giuliani in the primaries.
But Robertson, the son of a senator, has always been more of a political operator than James Dobson. It was Robertson, after all, who hired Ralph Reed as executive director at the Christian Coalition. The religious right has for years been split between idealists and those who favor a frontrunner strategy in the GOP nomination race to ensure “a place at the table.” Robertson saw this when Falwell and other prominent Christian conservatives endorsed George H.W. Bush over him during the 1988 primaries; he has been firmly in the place at the table camp since then.
Robertson has been hinting that he would be willing to endorse Giuliani for over a year. He aided Giuliani’s roll-out to social conservatives at his Regent University. The dean of Regent’s Robertson School of Government endorsed Giuliani months ago. This has both helped the former mayor among social conservatives and caused social conservatives to wonder what is up with Robertson. The reaction now will probably be similar.
Oddly, Roberston in his endorsement appears to echo the view social issues take a subordinate role to economics and foreign policy. All that is required is that a candidate not be overtly hostile to social conservatives, in the Pete Wilson mold. This is only savvy if you don’t especially care about social issues, but it doesn’t make much sense if those are an important motivator of your political involvement. In fact, it is part of the reason that social conservatives can’t point to policy accomplishments of the same scale as those achieved by economic and foreign-policy conservatives even though they arguably represent a bigger slice of Republican voters.