Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said LDS Church leaders would have no influence on government policy if he were elected president.
"No president could possibly take orders or even input from religious leaders telling him what to do," Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "My church wouldn't endeavor to tell me what to do on an issue, and I wouldn't listen to them on an issue that related to our nation."
The former Massachusetts governor is leading in most polls of Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first two contests for the nomination are traditionally held. Yet surveys also show some of the Christian voters who form the base of Republican support are reluctant to back a Mormon.
Valarie Harper, a Republican voter in South Carolina, described Mormonism as "a cult" in an interview last month. A Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times poll showed Romney trailing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona among religious conservatives in South Carolina, home to another early primary.
Romney, 60, said Sunday he is "not going to try and distance myself in any way, shape or form from my faith" and that the "same kind of philosophy that's associated with other Christian faiths and the Jewish faith and others is very much consistent with ours."
Among Republican voters nationwide, Romney trails Giuliani, McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee. An Oct. 12-16 CBS News poll found 29 percent of Republican primary voters back Giuliani, 21 percent support Thompson, 18 percent back McCain and 12 percent favor Romney.
He and the other Republican candidates are scheduled to take part in a debate sponsored by the Florida Republican Party late today in Orlando.