Capital Briefs: Nov. 12-16

ROBERTSON FOR RUDY: In a move that stunned political observers and most of his fellow evangelical conservatives, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) President Pat Robertson last week endorsed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination for President. Robertson said his support for Giuliani was because national security is the paramount issue right now and he is confident that Giuliani will defend the country against “the blood lust of Islamic terrorists.” In embracing the GOP hopeful who is farthest apart from conservatives on abortion, gay rights, gun rights and other cultural issues, the 77-year-old Robertson made it clear he was backing the New Yorker “as an acceptable” candidate “who can win the general election”—in other words, defeat New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton. He also said that Giuliani had pledged to appoint conservative judges. Connie Mackey of the Family Research Council (FRC) echoed other cultural conservatives when she said that “what support [Robertson] has left is obviously going to be eroded by this very strange endorsement.” FRC head Tony Perkins has suggested he would back a third-party candidate if Giuliani is the GOP nominee while Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention has said he would never vote for the former mayor.

WEYRICH, BROWNBACK GO ELSEWHERE: Two other leading lights among cultural conservatives also endorsed a GOP hopeful last week. Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, often referred to as the godfather of the Christian right, weighed in for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who dropped out of the ’08 race two weeks ago, endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain. (Of Robertson’s blessing of Giuliani, McCain said, “Every once in a while, I am left speechless. This is one of those times.”)

RUBIN FOR HILLARY: Perhaps the most widely admired member of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet has decided to back Hillary Clinton for President. Robert Rubin, former U.S. Treasury secretary and now acting head of the embattled Citicorp, will co-host a major fund-raising event for the Democratic front-runner as her last major fund-raiser of the year, December 13. Although Rubin was finance chairman for Hillary Clinton’s first Senate race in 2000, he reportedly had misgivings about her as a presidential candidate. One of his sons is a major fund-raiser for Clinton rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

ROMNEY UP IN POLLS: Mitt Romney has been placing fourth in presidential polls of Republicans nationwide. Now the former Massachusetts governor is the front-runner in the first two showdowns of the ’08 GOP sweepstakes. The latest Strategic Vision “Iowa Poll” taken among likely attendees of the presidential caucuses shows Romney leading Rudy Giuliani with by a healthy 27% to 13%, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee a close third (12%) and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson fourth at 10%. In New Hampshire, a just-completed Rasmussen Poll shows Romney leading Giuliani 32% to 17%. John McCain is at 16% in the Rasmussen survey and Huckabee 10%, with all other Republicans in single-digits.

BUSH CLAN SPREAD WIDELY: Although George W. Bush and his father remain strictly neutral in the ’08 Republican presidential race, the Washington Post reported last week that other members of their large and politically active family are taking a different approach. George P. Bush, son of presidential brother and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (who is also neutral in Campaign ’08), said he is going to support Fred Thompson—putting him in a camp different from younger brother Jeb Bush, Jr., who is an active Florida campaigner for Rudy Giuliani. Dorothy Bush Koch, the President’s sister, has contributed to Mitt Romney, as have a few Bush cousins.

SHOWDOWN ON ENERGY BILL: With the Bush Administration long threatening to veto the Democratic energy bill that Congress is likely to pass, the Republican leadership in the House is gearing up to help sustain his veto of this legislation they consider hostile to business and containing no incentives for developing new sources of energy. “Gas has gone up more than 70 cents since Democrats took control [of Congress] in January,” House GOP Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) told reporters. “If [Democrats] are successful in passing their no-energy bill this winner, it’ll go up a lot more than that.” House GOP Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) was even more critical, saying, “The law of supply and demand might as well not exist for Democrats, because it’s certainly not reflected in their energy bills.”

SARKOZY TAKES WASHINGTON: Nicolas Sarkozy was a huge success in his first visit to the Nation’s Capital since becoming president of France earlier this year. Derided by political opponents at home during his campaign as “Sarko the American” for his oft-voiced admiration of the United States, Sarkozy appeared to warmly embrace the label in both his toast at a state dinner and his address to a joint session of Congress. Many Republican members of Congress, in fact, said that Sarkozy’s speech was more pro-American than most of the speeches they hear from their colleagues in the Democratic Party. “[F]riendship for France means first and foremost being true to one’s friends, to one’s values, to one’s history and one’s past,” the French president said in opening his remarks to Congress. “France is a friend of the United States.” Proclaiming himself “the expression, the voice of the people of France,” Sarkozy drew loud applause and cheers as he recalled the friendship of Washington and Lafayette, and how, “in 1917, America saved France at a time when my country had reached the final limits of its strength,” and then recalled how the parents of his generation talked of “how America returned in 1944 to save us from the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave us.” The 52-year-old Sarkozy was also cheered by lawmakers for promising that America could count on his country in the War on Terror and that “failure is not an option. Terrorism will not prevail, for democracies are not entitled to be weak and because we, the free world, are not afraid of this new barbarism.”