WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani on Wednesday received the endorsement of televangelist Pat Robertson, who said the former New York mayor’s promises to appoint conservative judges and protect Americans “from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists” should trump conservatives’ concerns about Giuliani’s support of abortion rights.
Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani came one day after another prominent social conservative, Paul M. Weyrich, endorsed rival presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.
Sen. Sam Brownback , R-Kan., a social conservative who ended his own presidential bid earlier this fall, said Wednesday that he would back his Senate colleague, John McCain of Arizona.
Taken together, the endorsements suggested that abortion may not prove to be a top-tier issue in the wide-open Republican race and that top evangelical figures would divide their support among multiple contenders.
Social conservatives have demonstrated a willingness to eschew longtime abortion opponents such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee to back candidates who either favor abortion rights, as Giuliani does, or who are recent converts to the anti-abortion cause, as is Romney.
Robertson said national security and concerns about federal spending should be top priorities.
“To me, the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists,” he said. “Our second goal should be the control of massive government waste and crushing federal deficits.”
Giuliani, appearing with Robertson at the National Press Club, said: “His confidence in me means a lot. His experience and advice will be a great asset to me and my campaign.”
In appealing to social conservatives, Giuliani has made a pledge – one of his campaign’s “12 commitments” – to appoint “strict constructionist” judges who claim to interpret the Constitution in the manner that they believe its framers intended.
Robertson indicated Wednesday he had been won over by this pledge. Giuliani, Robertson said, “understands the need for a conservative judiciary, and with the help of the distinguished Ted Olson, who is here today, and other members of his team, has assured the American people that his choices for judicial appointments will be men and women who share the judicial philosophy of (Chief Justice) John Roberts and (Justice) Antonin Scalia.”
Olson, a former solicitor general in the Bush administration who is a leading conservative legal figure, is an adviser to Giuliani’s campaign.