The rumblings on the Right have already begun as it becomes increasingly likely that a splintered and leaderless Hard Right will allow Giuliani to win a plurality in enough primaries to assure his nomination.

Key leaders of the Christian Right are already indicating that they’ll never acquiesce to a Giuliani victory. While some have talked about a third-party challenge, the more obvious consequence is that many evangelicals and others who regard abortion as their No. 1 priority will just stay home in November 2008 if the choice is between Giuliani and Clinton.

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Though Giuliani has changed his positions on immigration rights to pander to nativists on the Right and flipped from being a backer of New York’s punitive gun-ownership laws to a fervent Second Amendment backer, he hasn’t done the same on abortion.

That’s okay with the libertarian and security wings of the party. But anyone who expects conservative Christians to be pragmatic and vote for a candidate who isn’t pro-life doesn’t understand them at all.

All this is good news for Hillary, who knows that even the most rabid Moveon.org extremists will accept her straying on some issues dear to them because they value victory over anything else.

The GOP may claim that extremists, particularly anti-Israel extremists such as Jimmy Carter, are more influential among Dems than any anti-Zionist Republican. But it appears that ideological hard-liners may prove next year that the triumph of the Republican center will ensure a party crackup of historic dimensions.

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