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Evangelicals Lukewarm Toward GOP Field

Mitt Romney's changing stance on abortion raises the suspicions of some evangelicals.
Mitt Romney's changing stance on abortion raises the suspicions of some evangelicals. (By Jeff Roberson -- Associated Press)

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Several national religious leaders have also condemned Giuliani's views. Tony Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council, has called Giuliani "indistinguishable" from Clinton, a senator from New York and his Democratic rival.

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Last month in Salt Lake City, a group of conservatives that included Dobson discussed running a third-party candidate if Giuliani is the GOP nominee. Sources said several prominent Christian conservative leaders are planning to meet again this weekend after Giuliani's conference speech to determine if they need to throw their weight behind another candidate.

"A lot of people are going to vent at that point," said Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist who helped found the Moral Majority.

At a news conference Wednesday where he accepted the endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Giuliani said he is eager to win the votes of Christian and evangelical voters despite differences on some key issues.

"Of course you go to all of those states and you go to all of those voters, and you reach out your hand and you tell them what you believe you can do," Giuliani told reporters. "I go to them and I'm honest with them, and I tell them we don't agree about everything. They know there are one or two areas where we don't agree."

Aides say his speech to the conference Saturday morning will be an effort to highlight areas of common ground. They expressed confidence that Giuliani can win evangelical voters whose concerns include security, terrorism, leadership and the economy.

Recent polls suggest they may be right. A recent Washington Post-ABC News survey showed Giuliani tied with Thompson for the lead among white evangelical Protestants. Among that group, a majority said Giuliani's views on most issues are "about right."

But in the same surveys, more than a quarter of evangelical voters say they have not yet settled on a Republican candidate.

"Our voters would rather stay home than vote for half a loaf of bread," said Bill Stephens, the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida. "They either want the whole loaf, or they'll wait for next time."

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