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Giuliani accepts invite to conservative family forum

October 8, 2007 |  6:28 pm

Stop the presses! Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor with the liberal social views, has become the last Republican presidential candidate to accept an invitation to appear at a "values voter" conference in Washington on Oct. 20.

The conference, expected to draw some 2,000 conservatives, is being organized by the Family Research Council, an influential conservative group whose leader, Tony Perkins, has been among those quietly meeting amid mumbling about running a third-party evangelical candidate if someone with a pro-choice stand on abortion and gay rights like Giuliani gets the GOP nomination.

One of the more surprising long-term developments in the Republican race this year has been the continued national polling strength of Giuliani in a party where an estimated 30-40% of its membership are considered evangelicals opposed to abortion and other of Giuliani's views.

Conventional wisdom has been that his support would melt as conservatives, at first blinded by the halo of his 9/11 leadership, come to know the thrice-married Giuliani and his liberal views. He trails in Iowa, where he has not invested as much time or money as Mitt Romney, but has pulled close or even with the former Massachusetts governor in New Hampshire and regularly polls among Republicans as the most electable of the party's candidates.

Perkins, in a recent exchange with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, predicted Giuliani's popularity would still diminish once Americans "realize how far outside of the mainstream of conservative thought that Mayor Giuliani's social views really are." If "by some chance" Giuliani did ...

win the GOP nomination, Perkins predicted an unenthusiastic 2008 election turnout by Republicans, setting up a Democratic victory.

Perkins, James Dobson, the founder and head of Focus on the Family, and a handful of other conservatives recently met in Salt Lake City to discuss threatening to mount a third-party evangelical candidate. Dobson, who supported George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, has made several outspoken statements this year about Republicans he would not support.

Prime among them is Giuliani, whose nomination Dobson said might cause him to skip voting for the first time in his adult life. He called that decision "irrevocable."

A Giuliani spokesman was asked today to confirm if the former mayor would attend the Family Research Council's forum and the dinner that evening honoring Dobson. The aide's e-mailed response: "I can confirm he is attending the forum on October 20th."

--Andrew Malcolm