When Rudy Giuliani captured the endorsement of Christian Coalition founder and 700 Club host Pat Robertson Wednesday, many heads turned. Why did it happen? What does it mean?
Three explanations shot across e-mails and the airways: (1)Robertson can't bring himself to support a Mormon, even if Romney is much more conservative than Giuliani. (2)Robertson wants to show Jim Dobson that Robertson still matters. (3)Robertson really, really, really wants to win to keep the Supreme Court safe from Hillary.
Whatever the reason, the next question is whether or not GOP primary voters care what Pat Robertson thinks.
Here a call from a Christian publishing executive to yesterday's show matters. The exec coolly noted that when trying to sell books in the Christian market, the key "influencers" in terms of importance are (1)the Southern Baptist Convention, (2)James Dobson, (3)The Willow Creek network, (4)Rick Warren and his network of 450,000 pastors, and (5)Pat Robertson. With the top four on the sidelines, Robertson clearly has to help Giuliani in the primaries, right?
Well, it can't hurt, but neither do I think it helps very much.
Christian conservatives are an exceptionally active and aware demographic when it comes to politics. Those who were going to take a deep breath and support Giuliani wholeheartedly had already made that calculation. Those who could not see their way to a Giuliani vote have made that calculation on the basis of Giuliani's pro-abortion rights stance, and perhaps on the immigration issue. A Robertson endorsement won't help with these people. They have "hard" objections to Giuliani for which no argument really matters.
In this regard, the Christian conservative suspicion of Romney based either on his LDS faith (not so many people) or his conversion to pro-life policies (many more people) is a much softer sort of objection -- the sort of objection where an appeal to reason can and has mattered. This is why Paul Weyrich's endorsement of Romney mattered so much earlier in the week.
The fellow who matters most to Giuliani's campaign to win over values voters is Ted Olson, followed by Ted Olson, followed by Ted Olson. Christian conservatives know that John Paul Stevens is 87; Justice Ginsberg 74; Justices Scalia and Kennedy 71; Justice Breyer 69 and Justice Souter 68. Ted Olson is easily the most respected conservative lawyer in the United States and a big Rudy supporter. If Giuliani is going to bring large numbers of conservative activists to his banner, he needs to keep the change facing the Supreme Court front and center. Pat Robertson doesn't matter. The age of the six justices does.