It’s the terrorism, stupid:

[T]herein lies a startling aspect of Giuliani’s candidacy: Nationwide, he is the No. 1 choice of white conservative Christians for the Republican nomination. A Times poll this month found 26% of them favor Giuliani — more than double the portion supporting either of his top rivals, John McCain or Mitt Romney…

Retired teacher Lorraine Long, 74, said she was not “a huge Giuliani fan” and strongly disagreed with him on abortion. But she still might support him because of what she sees as his strength on national security.

“If we’re annihilated, we can’t fight abortion and the liberals,” she said.

That sentiment is part of a wider concern among many evangelicals that America is locked “in a massive, titanic ideological struggle with radical Islam,” said Dennis J. Goldford, professor of politics at Drake University in Des Moines. “Religious conservatives have come to see radical Islam as the dominant issue of the age, to the point that for some of them — not all — this eclipses things like abortion, taxes and homosexuality,” he said.

I hope he enjoys this while it lasts because Fred’s right behind him in the same poll among the same demographic with 22%. Once he jumps in and starts campaigning in earnest, he’s going to own the conservative Christian vote. And as hard as that’ll make things for Rudy and McCain, it makes them impossible for Mitt, doesn’t it? We keep cutting him slack for lack of name recognition, but if he hasn’t been able to command a lead yet among the innermost core of his would-be core demographic, what hope does he have?

No doubt anticipating the imminent arrival of Fredmania!, Rudy himself has belatedly found religion on immigration:

In contrast to his years as mayor, when he fought federal efforts to curtail public hospital or educational services to illegal immigrants, he now talks of penalties for people here illegally and requirements for them to wait at the back of the line. And while he once pushed policies like providing schooling for the children of illegal immigrants by saying, “The reality is that they are here, and they’re going to remain here,” now he emphasizes denying amnesty…

As other anti-immigration movements spread across the country in 1990s, Mr. Giuliani consistently pushed back. “The anti-immigration issue that’s now sweeping the country in my view is no different than the movements that swept the country in the past,” he said in 1996. “You look back at the Chinese Exclusionary Act, or the Know-Nothing movement — these were movements that encouraged Americans to fear foreigners, to fear something that is different, and to stop immigration.”

These days, when he says he opposes amnesty, Mr. Giuliani says he does not mean that the millions of people here illegally should be deported, but rather, that they should have to earn their citizenship and that nothing should be accorded automatically.

On the campaign trail, he says the first order of business must be to try to identify the 12 million immigrants who are here illegally and issue them “tamper-proof” identification cards.

Then, he said, they should start paying taxes. If they want to become citizens, they should have to “get on the back of the line,” he said.

“And then, at the end of the line, if they are ever going to become citizens,” he said, “the thing I am really interested in, they have to read English, write English, speak English and be able to understand the basics of American civics.”

It’s the Bush plan, in other words, a “soft” amnesty that tacks on a few pro forma requirements instead of just granting blanket citizenship straightaway. His excuse for the flip-flop: the war on terror, which requires new toughness in border enforcement. This’ll please supporters like Ace who are looking for some sort of willingness on Rudy’s part to tack right, no matter how shamelessly opportunistic it might appear. I think what it mainly does is erode his image as a man of principle (even if it’s the wrong principle) and puts him in the same box as McCain and Romney as guys who talk the talk unconvincingly. Which makes things that much easier for Fred.

Exit question: By the Pope’s logic, isn’t Rudy both pro-evil and pro-terrorism?

Update: A commenter points to the results of the American Family Association straw poll as a better indicator. Like I said, Fred’s going to own the Christian conservative vote.