• Wed 81°F / 50°F

Rick Santorum Vows Not to Run for ‘Pastor in Chief’

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images(MCKINNEY, Texas) -- After stunning victories in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado Tuesday night, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum told a group of pastors in Texas Wednesday that despite his focus on “the role of family in our society,” he is not running to be “pastor in chief” and that clergy should be working harder.

“It’s not because I want to be the pastor of the United States,” he said. “I have no intention and no desire to be the pastor of this country. There are pastors all over here who, you know, you guys can do a little better than you’re doing right now, I’ll be honest with you,” Santorum said before asking for an “Amen” from the crowd.

“We could be doing a little better out there in the churches, but I’m leaving that to you, all right? But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to stand and fight for the things that are consistent with what this country was founded upon, which was a moral foundation,” Santorum said.

He briefly mentioned his victories Tuesday night, saying he consistently benefits from being underestimated. He beat Mitt Romney 2-1 in Missouri, which awarded no delegates.

“I got elected to the United States Congress. After these elections, I looked back and I just had to thank God, because there’s no way I should have won this election,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “One of the great gifts that I’ve had in my political career is that no one ever thinks that I could ever win anything. The gift of being underestimated is a wonderful gift.  I think you may have seen a little bit of that last night.”

The owner of the event space -- the Bella Donna chapel -- a Santorum supporter, started inviting pastors from the Dallas area about a week ago to hear the former congressman speak.

About 100 clergy packed into the small chapel, while an overflow tent next door was open to the public and held several hundred despite the cold temperatures.

Santorum, 53, greeted the crowd and on his way out told a mass of reporters trailing him that his campaign had raised $400,000 in the past two days.

The main reason for traveling to Texas, despite no upcoming primary, is for the candidate to attend a fundraiser in the Dallas area. An aide Tuesday evening told ABC News the state is “very generous,” and donors here were excited to meet him.

The address was notably devoid of much political discussion, although he did accuse President Obama of restricting Americans’ right to freedom of religion, as he has since the Department of Health and Human Services controversial decision last week to require all institutions that provide health insurance, including Catholic hospitals and universities, to cover contraception and emergency contraception.

At the end, the group surrounded the candidate, extended their hands and began praying for his health, safety and candidacy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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