GREENVILLE, S.C. – Mitt Romney stumped Tuesday on the importance of adoption, traditional marriage and faith, aiming to coax South Carolina Republican voters to his side in a state where the support of Christian values voters once seemed out of reach for the only Mormon presidential candidate.
Romney has surged in the polls over the past two months in this early voting state, which is set to hold the first-in-the-South Republican primary on Jan. 19. Recent polls in South Carolina show Romney's popularity rising from about 7 percent in early September to nearly 20 percent, putting him in a three-way tie with Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.
He has shored up his dossier with recent endorsements from high-profile social conservatives, and on Tuesday visited an adoption agency directly across the street from Bob Jones University, a conservative Christian college whose president, Bob Jones III, recently endorsed the former Massachusetts governor.
"The people in South Carolina, like across America, are not going to select their candidate based on what church they go to, but they are going to care very deeply about what values they have," Romney said in Greenville, when asked how he's managed to overcome skeptics' predictions that he wouldn't play in South Carolina.
Romney pitched an extensive policy Tuesday emphasizing adoption over abortion. The plan would require family planning clinics to accept government funding to provide adoption information to mothers facing unplanned pregnancies. The plan would also make permanent a tax credit for families that adopt and reform the foster care system.
"We celebrate adoption as an important part of a family agenda," Romney said.
Further underscoring the details of that agenda, Romney said he approaches his platform with a "pro-life mentality," that Roe versus Wade should be overturned and that states should be free to develop their own "pro-life legislation."
He also stressed that "before we have babies, we should have marriage."
Romney on Monday also racked up the endorsement of Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich, demonstrating that his Mormon faith may not be a hurdle to his success among Christian voters.
Asked how his family values record compares with that of his rivals, Romney said, "I'm not going to be pointing any fingers about the personal lives of my rivals."
Republican frontrunner Giuliani has been divorced twice, and supports abortion rights as well as adoption. Romney conceded that divorce has occurred in his own extended family, saying it is "part of America's experience."
But he did take a shot at Giuliani on immigration, saying the former New York City mayor welcomed illegal immigrants into New York by making it a "sanctuary city."
FOX News' Carl Cameron and Shushannah Walshe contributed to this report.