WASHINGTON — Television evangelist Pat Robertson announced Wednesday that he will be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination a year from now if 3 million voters pledge to "pray, work and give" to his campaign.
In a press conference preceding a three-hour speech over closed-circuit television to a purported 200,000 viewers at 216 sites around the country, Robertson said that he is ready to run "to combat a flood tide of social problems" that are, he said, "a direct result of moral decay."
After declaring that "what we are facing is not a governmental problem, it is a moral problem," Robertson called for firmer moral guidance of young people, cuts in government spending and rigorous efforts to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. He said that Americans should tell foreign competitors: "Either give us free and fair access to your markets, or we will shut down America's markets to you."
Wants 3 Million Backers
Robertson, who has been campaigning unofficially for months, told his supporters in the broadcast from Constitution Hall, headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, that "tens of thousands of wonderful people" have been urging him to "go for it!"
He said he would agree to make the effort if, by September, 1987, "3 million registered voters have signed petitions telling me that they will pray--that they will work--that they will give toward my election."
Robertson said he had set no financial goal for his supporters to reach by next September, but he said that, if he did become an official candidate, he hoped to raise enough from individual contributions so that he would not have to accept the millions of dollars in federal matching funds that are available to presidential candidates.
Mark Nuttle, head of Americans for Robertson, the presidential exploratory committee set up on Robertson's behalf under the federal election law, said those attending Wednesday night's television rallies would be asked to give $100 each to the cause. Nuttle estimated that contributions would be more than enough to cover the cost of the telethon, which he said would be around $2 million.
By delaying a declaration of his candidacy for one year, the 56-year-old founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and impresario of the "700 Club" news magazine television show is free to go on with his broadcasting activities without having to worry about federal requirements that television and radio stations grant equal time to competing candidates.
Skirts Reporting Law
Meanwhile, he can continue to raise money to promote his political ambitions and will not have to report how he spends it to the Federal Election Commission until he announces his candidacy.
In remarks prepared for the television broadcast, Robertson, the son of former Democratic Sen. A. Willis Robertson of Virginia, set forth what he called "a new vision for America." He decried contemporary social trends, which he said amounted to "an assault on our faith and values that would have been unthinkable to past generations of Americans."
When a reporter asked him about his previously stated refusal to accept Supreme Court decisions as the law of the land, Robertson, a Yale law graduate, said that, although the high court was the highest authority on the cases it decided, it was "never intended to be paramount" over other agencies of the government.
Robertson ruled out running as a third-party candidate if he should try for the GOP presidential nomination and lose. He said he was "absolutely committed" to the principles of the 1984 Republican platform.