Barely three months before the voting for a new president begins, the religious right has yet to unite behind a Republican candidate, heightening concerns among evangelical leaders that social liberal Rudolph W. Giuliani will capture the party’s nomination.
The splintering of religious conservatives, if it endures, could ease the way for New York’s former mayor to emerge as the party’s first nominee to explicitly support abortion rights since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973.
But the lack of a consensus choice for president is only one of the troubles facing conservative evangelicals, a powerful force within the GOP for more than a generation.
“It’s low tide right now for our movement,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Assn.
Opportunities for the religious right to press its agenda suffered a blow when Republicans lost control of both chambers of Congress in last year’s midterm election.
Making matters worse are sex scandals besetting Republicans who have championed family values, most recently Sens. Larry E. Craig of Idaho and David Vitter of Louisiana. Their troubles—after the sex scandal last fall involving then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) that contributed to the GOP’s midterm losses—have diminished enthusiasm for the party among many social conservatives.