ABC News’ Jan Simmonds reports: One of the most influential Christian conservatives in the country, Pat Robertson, threw his support behind Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani this morning at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
"To me the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists," Robertson said in his opening statements.
Robertson added that the United Stated needs a "leader with a bold vision who is not afraid to tackle the challenges ahead" and that leader was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-N.Y.
Robertson, founder of numerous organizations including the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the Christian Coalition and Regent University, provides Giuliani’s campaign with the backing of an undeniable social conservative with almost unparalleled credentials.
"Having him aboard gives us a great deal of confidence. Because he has tremendous insights into what the main issues are — how they should be dealt with," said Giuliani of Robertson. "His advice is invaluable and his friendship, even more invaluable."
Many of the leading Republican candidates vied for the favor of the Evangelical’s support. Robertson’s nod helps dampen, to some degree, former GOP candidate Sen. Sam Brownback’s, R-Kan., endorsement later today of John McCain, R-Ariz, in Iowa.
When asked what his endorsement meant to the evangelical and social conservative community, Robertson said "I believe that I needed to make a statement and I am speaking for myself."
The announcement also provides a major boost to Giuliani has he continues to seek to convince social conservatives that he is an acceptable choice as the Republican’s nominee. Giuliani has drawn ire from some social conservative groups for his positions on abortion and gay rights.
Giuliani added during the press conference that he hoped Robertson’s endorsement would send the message that "we have the same goals, all of us in the Republican Party."
Former Gov. Mitt Romney played down Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani while on the campaign trail in South Carolina.
"I’m really pleased with the support I’ve gotten," Romney said. "I can’t get the support of everybody, but I was delighted to have Dr Bob Jones support my campaign. Paul Weyrich earlier in the week has supported my campaign."
When asked whether he believed the endorsement would help Giuliani win the social conservative vote, Romney replied, "not at all."
"I don’t think the Republican party will choose a pro-choice, pro- gay civil union candidate to lead our party," said Romney. "I think in order to win the White House we have to bring together the coalition of conservatives that won the White House for Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush and that is social, economic, and foreign policy conservatives. And that is why I think that others that are running in this race, myself included, have a better shot of winning the white house."
In recent years, Robertson has caused some controversy.
In October of 2006, while discussing the Mark Foley scandal on his television program, the 700 Club – which airs on an ABC cable network, Robertson condemned Foley saying he "does what gay people do." He also gained media notoriety in 2004 when he claimed that President Bush told him before he led the United States into war with Iraq, that he expected there to be no casualties. President Bush’s then-press secretary Scott McClellan denied the allegation.
At the end of the presser, Giuliani also noted that he had contacted Congressman Peter King, R-N.Y., and Pete Sessions, R-T.X., and has asked them to propose legislation in congress that will make it illegal for states to offer driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Giuliani said the congressman were considering his proposal and did not have a timetable for when such legislation would be introduced.