Rudy Giuliani, whose two divorces and proabortion-rights views have alienated many Christian conservatives, yesterday captured the endorsement of the Rev. Pat Robertson, a prominent televangelist who said the former New York mayor would be the best candidate to counter the "blood lust of Islamic terrorists."
Robertson's support helps Giuliani deflect criticism from the Republican Party's right wing, which sees him as too liberal on social issues.
But it also underscored the splintering in the Christian conservative community and raises questions about whether evangelicals - who played a key role in electing President Bush in 2000 and 2004 - will be an important force in the presidential election.
In another sign of the fragmentation, Senator John McCain of Arizona yesterday picked up the endorsement of Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a conservative who dropped out of the presidential race last month and who considered endorsing Giuliani.
Robertson, who sought the GOP nomination in 1988, has drawn controversy for his remarks about Islam. On his Christian Broadcasting Network show, "The 700 Club," Robertson has warned of a looming "holy war" between Muslims and Christians and called Islam "satanic."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations yesterday urged Giuliani to reject Robertson's endorsement.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Robertson was criticized for suggesting that God allowed the attacks to happen because of the country's tolerance of abortion and homosexuality.
Giuliani, however, welcomed the backing of Robertson, whom he described as a fiscal conservative who has "very well articulated what are the overriding issues of our time, dealing with the Islamic terrorist war against us."
Robertson yesterday brushed aside Giuliani's abortion stance, saying the former mayor had assured him he would appoint conservative jurists similar to Supreme Court Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
But other Christian leaders are less forgiving, and have divided their support among other candidates, finding themselves torn between supporting someone with a less-than-perfect conservative record or picking someone unlikely to win. (MORE)