Obama Admires Romney for Taking Mormon Faith 'Very Seriously'

Policy differences aside, President Obama says he admires Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his family life, personal discipline and outward practice of his Mormon faith.

"He strikes me as somebody who is very disciplined. And I think that that is a quality that obviously contributed to his success as a private equity guy," Obama said in an interview with TIME magazine ahead of the Democratic National Convention next week.

"I think he takes his faith very seriously. And as somebody who takes my Christian faith seriously, I appreciate that he seems to walk the walk and not just be talking the talk when it comes to his participation in his church," he said.

The personal praise for Romney - and rare mention of his religious practice - goes beyond what Obama has publicly offered heretofore on the campaign trail. He regularly refers to his rival as a patriotic family man, even though he vehemently disagrees with his policies.

"This isn't a matter of who is more patriotic or who is more empathetic towards people or who is nicer," Obama said later in the TIME interview. "It's a hard-headed assessment of what makes our economy grow. And the facts are on my side in this argument. The question is whether while we're still digging ourselves out of this hole that we found ourselves in, that the facts will win the day."

The Obama campaign has said it would not make an issue of Romney's Mormonism during the lead up to the November election - a pledge which it so far has appeared to keep.

"We've said that's not fair game," senior Obama strategist David Axelrod said of both candidates' personal religious views in an interview with CNN earlier this year.