Tony Perkins: Social conservative enthusiasm for Romney ‘building’

Chris Moody

Enthusiasm among social conservatives for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is still "building," Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins said during a speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"I think it's building," Perkins, who endorsed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum during the Republican primaries but supports Romney now, said when asked about the level of support for Romney among social conservatives. "As anything you've got to get forward momentum, and I think that momentum is moving forward. We're not there yet, but I think what you see happening is the Obama administration is helping the enthusiasm level day by day."

Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is scheduled to speak at the FRC-sponsored Values Voter Summit this week, the same conference where a prominent pastor called Romney's Mormon faith a "cult" onstage in 2011. The pastor, Rev. Robert Jeffress of Dallas, Texas, is not on the list of speakers at this year's conference.

Perkins, a Southern Baptist, brushed off a question about whether he had reservations about Romney's candidacy because of his faith.

"We're not hiring a pastor in chief. We're not asking him to lead a national church—we don't want a national church," he said. "We want religious freedom, and I think someone who has been part of a persecuted religion is going to be even more sensitive to the issue of religious freedom."

"This candidate lines up as close to my values as anybody in the race," he added. "Mitt Romney is the clear choice for values voters across the country."

In August, a gunman attacked the FRC's Washington, D.C., headquarters, wounding a building manager; the shooter was taken down before he could reach the elevator. Perkins said during a luncheon Tuesday that the group will have extra security on hand for this week's conference.