shares the lead among conservative voters in the Republican
presidential race, despite the New Yorker's three marriages
and moderate views on abortion, guns and gays.
Yet a close look
suggests his support from the GOP's potent right wing is
less than meets the eye, according to recent Associated
evangelical and born-again voters, and strongly loyal
Republicans who back Giuliani tend to be less conservative,
less religiously active, and less supportive of
President Bush than those favoring Fred Thompson,
Giuliani's chief rival so far, the surveys show.
Giuliani, the Republican front-runner, with a tenuous hold
on the most intensely conservative voters long
considered his party's core.
Thompson are each backed by about one fifth of
conservatives, with an equal share undecided and the rest
spread among other candidates. Thompson has a slight
edge over Giuliani -- with undecideds close by --
among right-leaning voters like Southerners, strongly
loyal Republicans, and people who attend religious services
at least weekly.
primaries and caucuses less than three months away, this
lack of conservative consensus creates an opportunity
for Thompson and others to Giuliani's right.
about his ability to hold to some conservative things I
value,'' like opposing abortion, Sheryl Tolson, 45, a
teacher and conservative from Elk Grove, Calif., said
of Giuliani. Her choice is former Massachusetts
governor Mitt Romney.
conservatives can be difference-makers in elections because
of their numbers and activism, especially in
strongest appeal is to centrists, the former New York
mayor hopes to maximize conservative support. He and other
GOP presidential contenders will address a convention
of Christian conservatives in Washington this weekend.
Danny Hyde, 48, a
conservative from Canton, Ga., typifies the right's
The real estate
broker said he likes Thompson and former Arkansas
governor Mike Huckabee because they have ''the pulse of the
common man'' and for their conservative views. Yet he
may back Giuliani, whom he thinks has the best shot of
defeating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who
sits atop the Democratic field.
''It's still a
tough call,'' said Hyde.
data from AP-Ipsos polls this month and last show Giuliani
holding his own among conservatives, they also show a
slender Thompson advantage among the strongest
Of those calling
themselves very conservative, the former Tennessee
senator and actor leads Giuliani by 26% to 15%. Thirty-seven
percent of Thompson's support comes from the very
conservative, about double Giuliani's rate.
of Giuliani's conservatives call themselves strongly
Republican, compared to 52% of Thompson's.
of Giuliani's evangelical or born-again Christian supporters
say they are very conservative, 47% of Thompson's do.
-Sixty-four percent of Giuliani's supporters approve
of Bush's performance, compared to 78% of Thompson's.
-Thirty-seven percent backing Giuliani attend
religious services at least weekly, making him the
only major GOP hopeful who gets less than half his
support from people who go that often.
Republicans surveyed and conservative leaders show part
of Giuliani's allure is the tough antiterror reputation he
developed after the September 11 terrorist attacks on
his city while he was mayor.
''If it wasn't a
time of war, I wouldn't vote for him'' because of his
social views, said Alex Dragonchuck, 24, a conservative and
truck driver from Pasco, Wash. He added, ''You get a
couple of nukes going off on American soil, and what
good is the other stuff? You've got to prioritize.''
Yet many wrestle
over backing a candidate who embodies their values or
one they think can win the White House.
''I can't vote
for a pro-choice candidate,'' Richard Land, who heads the
Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm, said of
Giuliani. But he added, ''I'm not going to criticize
anybody who says, 'I think Rudy Giuliani is the lesser
of two evils''' compared to Clinton.
Sessions, R-Texas, a conservative working with Giuliani's
campaign, said the candidate is faring well with
conservatives and cannot win the nomination without
them. He said as mayor, Giuliani took actions ''which
Christians strongly identify with,'' like removing
pornography shops from Times Square.
emphasized the need to attract centrists and independents
to defeat Clinton, whom he predicted will be the Democrats'
candidate. He said the election would be a choice
between the ''center-right'' Giuliani and Clinton,
whom conservatives ''are really fearful of.''
John McLaughlin said he thinks conservative support for
Giuliani will fade as people learn more about his moderate
realize they're better off with Fred Thompson as a true
conservative, Giuliani's going to lose votes to us,''
AP-Ipsos polls were conducted Oct. 1-3, Sept. 21-25 and
Sept. 10-12, and involved telephone interviews with a
combined 1,144 Republicans and Republican leaners. The
margin of sampling error for all Republicans was plus
or minus 2.9 percentage points. (Alan Fram, AP)