Does all this portend a sharp split in the ranks of the religious right? Not at all. It is probably healthier, all things considered, when that movement is divided among several contenders for the nomination, rather than piling all its chips on just one.
Some political analysts have sought to explain Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani as an effort to resuscitate his own role as a leader of the religious right, which they say has been somewhat diminished in recent years. And it may well be that Robertson, scanning the field of candidates and noting a relative shortage of religious support for Giuliani, was influenced to some degree by the thought that backing him would reflect credit on himself -- especially if, as seems entirely possible, Giuliani scoops up the nomination. But supporting a candidate as generally attractive as Giuliani hardly needs a motive that Machiavellian to inspire it.
The key point here is that all of the major Republican contenders have now obtained the blessing of acknowledged leaders of the religious right. That removes one potent factor from consideration as the race for the nomination goes forward -- and will constitute a major plus thereafter, as the general election campaign gets under way.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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