Pat Robertson warms to Donald Trump

A buoyant GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump traveled to Regent University in Virginia Beach Wednesday where he told a capacity crowd "we totally won with evangelicals" in Tuesday's Nevada caucuses and "it was such a good thing."

Trump almost scored another big hit at Regent, as Pat Robertson, founder of both the university and the Christian Broadcasting Network, gave the candidate a near-endorsement.

Robertson, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 1988, appeared with Trump on stage for a question and answer session, and opened his remarks by telling the real estate developer "you inspire us all."

Robertson also said that "the audience appreciates and loves you," and invited Trump to visit the university again - as President Trump.

The evangelical vote has been key to the Republican race so far, as have endorsements from evangelical leaders. Trump already scored the endorsement of Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Virginia's Liberty University, which bills itself as the nation's largest Christian academic community.

In his speech, Trump spoke of how he knew lots of very wealthy and successful people around the world. But they weren't always the happiest. "The happiest people I know," he said, "have great families." He went on to tell anecdotes about his own children, and brought two of his sons on stage with him because "I'm very proud of them."

Trump wheeled away from the softer moment back into his standard stump speech, criticizing trade relations with China, Japan and Mexico, and the nuclear deal with Iran.

He emphasized that his administration would be "strong on borders," on international trade, and would be a strong defender of Second Amendment rights.

Trump also pledged to end Obamacare, which he says is "really hurting our country." He touched on ideas to replace the program, including expanded health savings accounts, and allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines. He also suggested the creation of a competitive bidding process for prescription drugs as a way to help contain costs.

Trump believes none of these ideas has gained much traction in Washington because of the strong influence he believes corporate donors have over politicians.  "You don't want to know how corrupt it is," he said.

During the question and answer session with Robertson, the long-time "700 Club" host asked Trump how he would reduce federal spending. Trump offered no specifics, but instead said he would restore jobs to American workers and cut corporate income tax rates. “I’m cutting taxes very substantially for businesses. We’re bringing our jobs back.”

Trump brushed aside charges he is a trade protectionist, telling Robertson he's a free trader but that what the nation really needs is "smart trade." He defined that as a stance in which the nation strikes the best deals it can with its foreign partners, while also keeping American companies from moving their operations abroad.

Trump said everything he advocates is rooted in conservatism, but not rigidly so.  “I’m the most conservative guy in many ways but you have to be smart." He later added: “I’m a very strong constitutionalist.”

Asked by Robertson what sort of criteria he would use to pick a nominee to fill the vacancy left on the Supreme Court by the death of Antonin Scalia, Trump said: "Pro-life — it starts with that."

He said he would choose someone who is both "conservative," and "very, very smart. Somebody like Scalia."

A question from the audience pressed Trump on what he is looking for in a potential vice-presidential pick, should he become the Republican nominee. He said he "hasn't been thinking about it a lot."

But he did say he would look for someone "who can be a great president," and also "most likely a political person, who can help me with government."