This morning former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani attended church — the first time he has apparently done so during this campaign.
Giuliani, according to ABC News’ Jan Simmonds, this morning joined worshippers in the pews of the El Rey Jesus Church, a Spanish evangelical church in Miami, Florida. He also addressed the congregation.
Pastor Guillermo Maldonado invited Giuliani to speak here when they met a few months ago in Philadelphia. Maldonado says his congregation is one of the fastest-growing churches in the South.
Giuliani has essentially staked his campaign on winning Florida’s January 29 GOP primary, and winning Latino voters is an essential part of that strategy. Unlike in other parts of the country, Latino voters in Florida tend to vote Republican.
Saying that "faith can transform lives," Giuliani told parishioners that running for president of the United States "is a marathon, not a sprint. And in may ways it’s a test of strength and a test of faith. The Bible reminds us, Joshua 10:25, ‘Fear not, be strong, and of good courage.’ That is the way to face the future.”
(Giuliani, who is facing off against five major Republican challengers, did not quote from the next verse in Joshua, which describes Joshua smiting five kings, slaying them, and hanging them on five trees until the evening.)
“So I am not coming here to ask for your vote," Giuliani said. "This is not the right place. I am coming here to ask you of something, very special, very important: I am asking for your prayers.”
Three months ago, Giuliani might have thought that the greatest threats to his candidacy were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., none of whom have been embraced en masse by conservative Christian voters.
But then came the Huckaboom. According to an Associated Press poll from the end of December, 54% of conservative evangelicals who attend church weekly switched their preference of candidate in November and 61 percent of the switchers moved to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a fellow evangelical and Baptist minister.
Huckabee this morning spoke twice at two different services at the First Baptist Church of North Spartanburg, SC. This evening he’s scheduled to attend church services at the Apostolic Church of Auburn Hills in Michigan.
Giuliani was raised Catholic and in his youth entertained thoughts of becoming a priest. But because of his positions on some social issues and his turbulent family life, the twice-divorced supporter of abortion rights has had a stormy relationship with the Catholic Church, which frowns on both divorce and abortion.
Asked about his faith in July in Le Mars, Iowa, Giuliani said, "I believe in God. I pray and ask him for help. I pray like a lawyer. I try to make a deal — get me out of this jam, and I’ll start going back to church."
When asked by a voter in Davenport, Iowa, in August if he is a "traditional, practicing Roman Catholic," Giuliani said, "My religious affiliation, my religious practices and the degree to which I am a good or not-so-good Catholic, I prefer to leave to the priests."
Thompson also attended services at this church before the Univision debate in December. He even spoke to the congregation — watch it HERE.
Also in attendance this morning at the church: former Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Florida.
– jpt …(with Jan Simmonds with the Giuliani campaign in Miami)