- (Photo: Reuters/Jim Young)
Conservative Christian and one-time Republican presidential hopeful Pat Robertson appears to have gone back on his word that he would not be endorsing a candidate for the 2012 presidency. Robertson indicated his change of heart when responding to viewers of his Christian program who have expressed concerns about possibly having Mitt Romney, a Mormon, in the executive office.
Robertson, speaking during "The 700 Club" produced by his Christian Broadcasting Network, addressed questions asked by viewers related to former Pennsylvania Senator and devout Roman Catholic Rick Santorum withdrawing from the GOP race, leaving room for the advancement of Romney, the projected party nominee.
The CBN founder and chairman, who said in January that he believed God had revealed to him in prayer who the next president of the United States would be, suggested on the widely-aired program Wednesday that Romney would indeed be the likely GOP candidate to face President Barack Obama at the polls in November.
"Well, his father George was a Mormon. He was governor of Michigan, did a superb job as governor. He's not running for Chief Rabbi or Chief American Pastor. He's running for Chief Executive, and he's a skilled lawyer, he's a skilled businessman. And that's what we need... somebody would bring business acumen to the White House," Robertson told viewers Wednesday.
He continued, "I can't imagine that he's going to interject the Mormon religion into the way he governs. He might, but I would sincerely doubt it. That's the concern, but I think the biggest concern right now is the fact that this country is going bankrupt if we don't do something about the terrible federal deficits.
"I believe [we] now have a clear-cut choice between somebody who has no plan and between somebody who has a very detailed plan."
Despite insisting in October of last year that he would not endorse a candidate and had "backed off from direct political involvement," Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, now seems to be in full support of Romney being the GOP nominee and the nation's 45th president, whom he also called in January an "outstanding Christian."
Romney is a longtime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his family has deep roots in the Church. His Mormonism has been a point of contention for many evangelical Christians who are wary of the religious group – with some insisting it is just another branch of Christianity, while others view it as a cult due to its unorthodox doctrines, or "exotic beliefs," regarding issues such as the Trinity and the afterlife.
The Pew Research Center published a poll last May revealing that about 34 percent of white evangelical Protestants would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate. Another Pew poll released in November of the same year found that 56 percent of all American Mormons believe the U.S. is ready for a Mormon president.
Robertson, who has spoken fondly of Romney since he entered the race, stands in stark contrast to another Southern Baptist minister who made headlines late last year for publicly insisting that Romney was not a "real Christian."
Although Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas has not publicly endorsed Romney he did say in October that despite believing Mormonism to be a cult and that the former Massachusetts governor is not a true Christian, ultimately, he would "hold his nose" and vote for the Mormon candidate -- whom he views as "a good, moral person."
"Evangelical Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon, therefore not a real Christian," Jeffress said at the time, after announcing his support for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But he also insisted that America had "a spiritual imperative" to unseat President Obama due to his "pro-abortion, pro-homosexual" stances.
During his Wednesday comment, Robertson did not express any certainty that Romney, who overwhelmingly overshadowed remaining GOP hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul in the Washington D.C. primary, would be the next president.
In January during CBN's "New Year Prayer 2012," the conservative Christian broadcaster revealed that he had spent a week in prayer and received revelation from God concerning the next president's identity.
"I think He showed me the next president, but I'm not supposed to talk about that so I'll leave you in the dark," Robertson said on the program.
Despite Robertson's assurance this week that it was unlikely Romney's faith would play a part in his presidential decisions, some CBN viewers remained unconvinced, reflecting the national debate that is likely to continue through November and beyond.