09/13/2012 08:10 am ET

Mitt Romney 2012: Tony Perkins Says Enthusian Growing For The Mormon Candidate, Predicts Record Turnout

WASHINGTON (RNS) Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Wednesday (Sept. 12) that conservative Christians are growing more enthusiastic about GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and predicted they would show up at the polls in record numbers in November.

"When it comes to the values of family, values of faith, values of freedom, Mitt Romney is a clear choice, I think, for value voters across this country," Perkins said at a National Press Club luncheon two days before his organization kicks off its annual Values Voter Summit in Washington.

Perkins, a Southern Baptist, said evangelical Christians have "significant theological differences" with Romney, a Mormon, but he said the GOP nominee, if elected, would not be asked to head a national church.

"We don't want a national church. We want religious freedom," he said. "I think someone who has been a part of a persecuted religion is going to be even more sensitive to the issue of religious freedom."

Perkins was critical of President Obama's first term, including a shift to support same-sex marriage, the rule requiring most employers to cover contraception in their health plans and the repeal of the ban on openly gay members of the military.

"I hope America sees that the first four (years) was a bad mistake and that we don't need a second four," Perkins said.

He predicted enthusiasm for Romney was likely to increase after Democrats removed references to God and Jerusalem from their platform, only to add them back in after three rounds of voting. "I can recall some time in history when someone else denied God three times," he said, referring to biblical accounts of the Apostle Peter thrice denying he knew Jesus.

Perkins also discussed the August incident in which a gunman stormed the FRC's Washington headquarters and shot a security guard.

"Many may have been hoping that the threats and the harassment and now this attack would cause us to just leave, but let me be very clear," he said. "We are not going anywhere."