Giuliani Works to Win Over Religious and Social Conservatives

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani implored an audience of religious and social conservatives to look beyond their differences over abortion and other issues as he sought to allay their fears that his nomination would mean the abandonment of the GOP's core principles.

"I come to you today as I would if I were president, with an open mind and an open heart, and all I ask is that you do the same," Giuliani said yesterday. "Please know this: You have absolutely nothing to fear from me."

Giuliani used his highly anticipated appearance at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit to reach out to a community that stands as the most significant obstacle to his hopes of becoming president. His advisers saw the speech as a critical opportunity for Giuliani to begin to build a bond of mutual respect with one of the most important parts of the Republican coalition.

Giuliani argued that he and social conservatives share more areas of agreement than disagreement. But the former New York mayor made no effort to disguise or downplay their differences. "Isn't it better to tell you what I really believe than to change my positions to fit the prevailing winds?" he said. "I believe trust is more important than 100 percent agreement."

Giuliani was followed by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, who was quick to remind the audience of his long-standing commitment to their issues. "I come today not as one who comes to you, but as one who comes from you," he said.

Huckabee urged those in attendance not to be swayed by the issue of who is the most electable candidate but to remain true to their conservative convictions. Better to support candidates who "sing from their hearts," he said, than to follow those who "just lip-sync the lyrics from our songs."

Huckabee said conservatives should never soften their positions on abortion and gay rights, noting that some things are not negotiable. "Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody's politics," he said. "Not now. Not ever."

Other Republican candidates addressed the conference on Friday, but it was Giuliani who had as much on the line as anyone. As he opened his speech, the audience appeared cool and reserved but gradually warmed to his message as he cited his record in New York in reducing crime, driving pornographers out of Times Square, promoting adoption and reforming welfare.

On abortion, Giuliani said: "People of good conscience come to different conclusions about whether abortions should be legal in some circumstances. But you and I believe all Americans share the same goal. A country without abortions."

He also stressed his commitment to the appointment of judges who would strictly interpret the constitution, citing Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. as models for the kind of judges he would nominate to the high court.

Giuliani drew applause with his commitment to keep the country on the offensive in combating threats of terrorism, defending Israel and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "Our goal in Iraq," he said, "should be clear: victory."

Giuliani, a Roman Catholic, referred to Christian precepts and the presidency of Ronald Reagan to show that he shares many of the same values of the social conservative community, even if they are not in agreement on all issues.

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