Salena Zito

Rudy Giuliani took a step last week to convince some of the more sensible folks who hold rock-ribbed conservative values to re-examine his candidacy: He won an endorsement from uber-conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry’s endorsement brings incredible conservative street cred to the Giuliani campaign nearly 90 days before the first primary vote is cast.

In an interview after Perry’s announcement, Giuliani said the governor’s support personally meant a great deal to him and “to our campaign.”

Asked if the Texan’s broad appeal with the pro-life movement will help his campaign, Giuliani said Perry’s support, “especially on that key issue, was very important.”

“I think that Rick Perry is an enormously effective governor,” said the former mayor of New York. “He speaks to everyone, and he talks to all of the moving parts of our party. So to have his support says that we can appeal to many, many people.”

Perry said a couple of calls to some of his pro-life supporters the night before the announcement left many of them “scratching their heads with my decision.”

He understood their disappointment: “I am the most pro-life governor in Texas history by a substantial proportion. I have a sterling record with the pro-life organizations.”

During his soul-searching, Perry said, “I asked the mayor, ‘What do I tell my social-conservative friends who are very pro-life? ”

Giuliani's persuasive reply? The direct result of his presidency would be strict constructionists on the U.S. Supreme Court -- justices in the mold of Roberts, Scalia and Alito.

That was enough for Perry: “When I hear the words ‘strict constructionist,’ it makes my heart smile.”

For the Republican base, “values” matter, but to win “values voters” matters even more. They bring energy, activism, mobilization and results where it counts -- in the voting booth. Without them, no amount of voodoo math will produce a Republican win.

“If the evangelical voter turnout falls drastically,” said Matt Lebo, political science professor at Stony Brook (New York), “a lot of electoral votes come back into play for the Democrats.”

But your average values or evangelical voters are reasonable. They get it. They understand Ronald Reagan’s winning formula -- that someone who agrees with your positions 80 percent of the time is not your enemy. So one or two issues are not the swords they will throw themselves on.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.

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