The latest high-profile political endorsement for GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani seemed to be the clearest indication yet that Christian conservatives may be more politically divided than ever before.
The Rev. Pat Robertson, who has devoted much of his career to opposing abortion rights -- even going so far as to say legal abortion in the United States partly contributed to the Sept. 11 attacks, endorsed the former mayor of New York City Wednesday despite his support for abortion rights.
"It is my hope and prayer that he will lead the Republican Party to victory in November 2008," Robertson said to the press.
But Giuliani's support for abortion rights is apparently not as important to Robertson as Giuliani's stance against Islamic terrorism and the argument that he's the most electable candidate in his party.
"Without question, I think that we do want a front-runner of the Republican Party who can win the general election," Robertson said.
The other candidates were quick to dismiss Robertson's assessment of Giuliani.
"I don't think the Republican Party will choose a pro-choice, pro-gay civil union candidate to lead our party," rival candidate Mitt Romney said today in South Carolina.
"Every once in a while I'm left speechless," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chuckling. "This is one of those times."
Romney boasted of his own endorsements from conservative evangelical leader Paul Weyrich, founder of the Moral Majority, but others said they would not support Romney because of his faith.
"Mitt Romney is not a Christian. He's a Mormon, and Mormonism is a cult," said Robert Jeffries, at the First Baptist Church of Dallas.
"None of the Republican presidential candidates have really developed any enthusiasm of the Christian right's leaders, and those leaders can find something wrong with every single one of them," said John C. Green, a senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "So they are in a position where they are really choosing between the second or third best candidate, and that means that they divide up among the different people who are running."
And white evangelical voters are just as divided as their leaders, also splitting their support among Giuliani, said McCain and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. Many evangelical voters in Iowa are backing Romney.
McCain also announced an endorsement of his own by a Christian conservative leader, former presidential candidate and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback.
"I'm here today to endorse the best pro-life candidate to beat Hillary Clinton," Brownback said at a press conference in Iowa today.
The fear for this important voting block is whether its failure to coalesce around one candidate will hurt its ability for a Republican to end up in the Promised Land at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.