DALLAS — Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson, in the wake of a crushing defeat in the South Carolina primary, Sunday returned to his core constituency of religious followers with a warning against being "slothful" in politics.
In a series of appearances at Dallas churches, Robertson urged audiences to vote for him in the primary Tuesday but also to run for local and national offices themselves.
"The diligent shall bear rule, the slothful shall be put to forced labor," Robertson told worshipers at the Church of the King, quoting from Biblical Proverbs.
Throughout the day, the former religious broadcaster portrayed himself as a political novice who has been persecuted while championing the cause of his religious constituency.
His exhortations on political involvement reflected a dual goal of shoring up his political base for the presidential primaries and laying groundwork for broader political activism among evangelicals in the future.
"I went out there as your champion," Robertson told the audience at the Church of the King, calling himself "somebody who believes as you do" on issues of morality, military strength and fiscal responsibility.
Earlier on NBC's "Meet the Press," Robertson complained that: "I mentioned throwing down the gauntlet (to his rivals in South Carolina); what happened was I had to run the gantlet" of media. He said he faced "scorn, opprobrium, you name it. Fun has been poked at me. My religious views have been ridiculed. I have been parodied. It's been rather tough, but I'm a tough guy."
Robertson maintained that he wanted to "strengthen the Republican Party and be a team player," but he continued to show his disdain for Vice President George Bush, the GOP front-runner. He called rival Sen. Bob Dole "a very strong leader," adding: "On the issue of strength (and) leadership, I think that my followers might go along with him."
For now, however, Robertson made it clear he is not getting out of the race.
"If there's going to be a 'stop Bush' movement," he said, voters "should realize they need to coalesce around Pat Robertson in the South."
Robertson, who won no delegates in South Carolina, said his game plan for Tuesday, when 17 states--mostly Southern--hold GOP primaries and caucuses, is to win 200 to 300 delegates in selected congressional districts. This approach will eventually win him the nomination, Robertson said, adding that California is the only state where he needs to win the popular vote.