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On campaign trail, Romney ratchets ups God rhetoric
Early in his campaign, Mitt Romney spoke at Liberty University, the largest evangelical Christian university in the world.
September 14th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

On campaign trail, Romney ratchets ups God rhetoric

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – At campaign events these days, Mitt Romney often says that if he is elected president, he will emphasize the role of God in American society and will not “take God out of the public square.”

That kind of rhetoric is a departure from earlier less God-focused versions of the Republican candidate’s stump speech and his early apprehension with discussing his Mormon faith.

According to Mark DeMoss, Romney’s adviser to the evangelical community, such lines are designed to create a contrast with a Democratic Party that had to fight to get God into its platform at its recent convention.

“I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take it out of the platform of my party,” Romney has been saying in his stump speech since the Democratic platform fight this month.

The former Massachusetts governor used the line at a campaign stop in Mansfield, Ohio, on Monday. In nearly the same breath, he said that “we are nation under God.”

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DeMoss says the new rhetoric is not a departure from anything but is “as much as a response to something that really shocked a lot of people.”

“I think the governor is probably doing two things,” said DeMoss, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign: “reinforcing his own commitment to God and, secondly, showing some contrast.”

Some religious leaders and scholars see Romney's new God talk in a somewhat different light.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and media commentator, said Romney’s line that “I will not take God out of my heart” is a coded way to question to veracity of the President Barack Obama’s Christian faith.

“Critiquing the president for taking God out of the public square when he regularly refers to God and implicitly critiquing him for taking God out of his heart, any way you look at it, is offensive,” Martin said.

In his critique of Romney’s religious rhetoric, Martin cited Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

DeMoss, a Christian PR executive, said questions about the president’s faith should not be read into the speech.

“I take that comment as a reinforced pledge and commitment that God is not going to be stripped from anything if he has anything to say about it, whether it is his heart or the public square or the party platform,” DeMoss said. “I think it would be unreasonable or unfair to suggest that that was a comment on the president.”

Last week, at an event in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Romney pledged to keep God on U.S. currency.

“Our pledge says ‘under God,’”  Romney told thousands of energetic supporters at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. “I will not take God out of the name of our platform. I will not take God off our coins. And I will not take God out of my heart.”

On Tuesday, the anniversary of terrorist attacks of September 11, Romney tweeted, "On this most somber day, America is united under God in its quest and freedom at home and across the world."

The increased God rhetoric adds to a campaign that has frequently discussed religious issues, even as Romney says the economy is the most important issue.

From debates over religious liberty – sparked by the Obama administration's "contraception mandate" for health care plans – to abortion rights, the Romney campaign has taken stands on a number of religious issues, attempting to draw a distinction with Obama.

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Jacques Berlinerblau, a Georgetown University professor with an expertise in religion and politics, says he sees the change as a response to a president who is doing better in recent polls.

“When (Republicans) get nervous about a loss, they go into base-whip-up stage,” Berlinerblau said. “They try to energize the base even more.”

He argues that such rhetoric will not appeal to “moderate religious voters” and that it is pushing Romney off his economic message.

“They are totally getting off-script,” Berlinerblau said. “We hear that this election is all about the economy, but now we are talking about religion and faith issues.”

DeMoss says it's possible to emphasize both religious and economic issues.

“I am comfortable with the balance that he has struck about talking about his faith and other people's faith, and I was comfortable with the balance at the Republican convention,” DeMoss said. “It is part of the equation, but it is certainly not the dominant part.”

- CNN’s Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • God • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (3,354 Responses)
  1. yoyoma

    people quite often get very religious lying on their death bed

    September 15, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Kang Tut

      You mean "desperately stupid" on their deathbeds. But only a very few are that desperate or that stupid and it does nothing to prove that religion is worth following anyway.
      Why? Did you think it meant something that some people get desperate and stupid when faced with their approaching death?
      That's just how some people react to it. I won't be wasting my time that way. There are no gods that exist as described and this can be proven any day of the week.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  2. jonat

    Obama increases references to 'I' , 'me'...he thinks he is GOD

    September 15, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • some guy in New Hampshire

      This comment has no connection to verifiable facts. I can't deduce what it's even supposed to refer to.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • sam stone

      huh?

      September 15, 2012 at 7:33 am |
  3. Aud

    "At campaign events these days, Mitt Romney often says that if he is elected president, he will emphasize the role of God in American society..." – I'm an atheist, but a kind one. I don't think Christianity, or any religion for that matter, is stupid or dumb and I fully support people believing what they want, to each his/her own. But when presidential candidates promise to keep God in the American public arena, I absolutely cringe.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  4. Kebos

    I hear he'll have NASA send a rover to Kolob.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:03 am |
  5. Thoughts

    It's a bit dangerous given a large part of the world is angry with the US at the moment over an anti-Muslim film. Now Mitt Romney wants to take the solid and prominent opposite side staking an us against them stance. You would hope as the leader of our country one would strive to find a more peaceful approach.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • yang

      Mitt has succeeded in business. He has succeeded in his religious organization. He has succeeded in producing offspring. He wishes to succeed in politics. If he manages to become president, what do you want to bet that he wants to try his hand at war? I mean, what could further stroke his ego than believing he is a great warrior and battle strategist...especially when he doesn't have to actually risk his own life?

      September 15, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  6. Observer

    It's all part of the dance.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  7. CNNuthin

    We need a leader driven by experience and personal decision making abilities. If we wanted a religious leader, we'd elect a preacher. Look at the last 15 years and what "faith" based religions have done to this world. Look at the Middle East. Stop trying to make the world into your Holy War battleground.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • Kang Tut

      Well said!

      September 15, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  8. yang

    you know, i expect true followers of Christ and lovers of God to reject this kind of religious grandstanding. yet i hear so few people coming out against using their god as a political tool. my conclusion is that most "religious" people are not true followers of Christ or true lovers of God. it seems that most "religious" folks are religious merely to separate themselves from others, to give themselves a pat on the back for being so "good," and to have a "sanctified" and irreproachable way to present and promote their prejudices.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • IndMind

      Thank you, yang. One of the most intelligent responses I've seen. We have people twisting a Psalm as if God is going to answer their prayer for a one term presidency, selectively misinterpreting passages to fit their political ends. And we wonder why people who are unsure about what they believe in throw up their hands and reject Christianity. It is because of the cynical ones who hold their Bible up , cut and paste verses out of context on bumper stickers, but never bother to really read it.

      And if a political candidate says they're taking their country back, as if 50% of the population is some enemy, we should respectfully ask them to find a new country. They show they are not fit to lead the ENTIRE nation.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  9. hubert39

    Yes, I believe religion should be kept out of politics. When politicans argue that they love God more then the other candidates, it's get ridiculous.
    Nothing wrong with being a Mormon. But they believe that all Jews will convert to Mormonism, then God will return.
    What do the Jews say about this? Or the normal Chrisitan?

    September 15, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • Jt_flyer

      Sounds like a bunch of human created nonsense to me.

      September 15, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  10. God&Jesusinmyheart

    Well, mitt ole buddy, since you are keeping God in all these places, then let's get God and Jesus back in schools and other public places.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  11. Jt_flyer

    Now he's getting the imaginary friend to help. Not a good sign.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  12. Matt Dante

    It's called a 'belief' because if it were true, it would be called 'fact'.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • snowdogg

      So on-point

      September 15, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • bryanbeus

      I've read about crazy people who believed for decades that they could make a metal machine fly.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  13. bob

    there is a god and he or she covers all relegions. man has put names to to diffrent relegions to make him feel like he is in control . the ten commanments all the laws we have passed in the US come from them just man has written in the laws he wants sad we all belive in the same greater power but won;t admit it . GOD gave us all the rules to follow . he allso gave us FREE WILL . so whan somthing goes WRONGwe could not blame him to simple for humans

    September 15, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Matt Dante

      If some deity gives you commandments, and the violation of such brings you punishment, you don't have actual free will.

      September 15, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • sam stone

      god did not give man rules to follow. man gave man rules to follow, and you attribute those rules to god.

      religious rules only apply to followers of that religion

      September 15, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  14. nonyabidnes2

    " Mitt Romney often says that if he is elected president, he will emphasize the role of God in American society". REALLY, now he thinks he is in charge?

    September 15, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  15. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Mitt the twit and the unhinged GOBP tea potty are beyond desperation now,they're hysterical.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  16. Howie76

    How come he does not mention the planet he get when he goes to heaven. Each Mormon if they are good enough get to thier own plant per their beliefs. Kolub with the aliens. He can take his presidency there.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    September 15, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • yale

      True. The negativity in most people won't let them realize that.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  18. IndMind

    Too bad he doesn't believe his own spiritual talk. I defy Romney to tell where his Bible says it is ok to change your beliefs if it helps you gain votes. And the Book also does not say to skip out on your taxes in fact it was pretty clear on that issue. Religion for him is simply another means to an end, first to avoid the draft, then to appeal to a segment of the voting population.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  19. StayinAlive

    His allegiance is to a Mormon god. Which one? They believe in multiple gods.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  20. MormonChristian

    This talk about keeping "in God we trust" on the currency, etc. is such a useless distraction from what really matters in this campaign i.e. how these candidates will fix our economy. I hate discussion of religion and social issues in campaigns because nothing really changes but these people want to make us "feel good" about their beliefs. In the end, it has so little impact on the campaigns.

    I really wonder why Romney tries sooooooo hard to kowtow to the far right when he needs the moderates to win.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:30 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.