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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.

CNN Belief: Religious exemptions grow in contraception mandate

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. Sodapophead

    There is no God, so for me, there is no Romney. Let Science set your mind free of make believe reality.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  2. David

    This world would be better off if we just kept religion out of politics.... plane and simple.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Dippy

      It's "plain", not "plane", unless you're a pilot.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  3. Jo

    To Martin:
    I would also cite Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” You made an explicit judgment on what you thought Romney implied, which is your speculation as well.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  4. Jeff

    Don't see why, he already has the right wing religious crowd in his pocket. He needs to win over the moderates, many of whom are more highly educated and more casual about the Jesus thing.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  5. Bob Knippel

    Religion has no place in American politics. That is pretty fundamental, like freedom.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • End Religion

      Can you share pictures of your children? I'd like to see your wife's Knippels.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  6. Chris33

    Stocks do 9 times better with a Democrat in the White House....

    While Republicans promote themselves as the friendliest party for Wall Street, stock investors do better when Democrats occupy the White House. From a dollars- and-cents standpoint, it’s not even close.

    The BGOV Barometer shows that, over the five decades since John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, $1,000 invested in a hypothetical fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) only when Democrats are in the White House would have been worth $10,920 at the close of trading yesterday.

    That’s more than nine times the dollar return an investor would have realized from following a similar strategy during Republican administrations. A $1,000 stake invested in a fund that followed the S&P 500 under Republican presidents, starting with Richard Nixon, would have grown to $2,087 on the day George W. Bush left office.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Razorking

      Ah, yes, well that may well be the case. But none of the other Republicans had magic underwear, you failed to account for that – but good try.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  7. GodFreeNow

    God, who according to Mitt Romney lives on the planet Kolob.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Razorking

      Can we send Mitt to Kolob, you know, let him learn about foreign affairs?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • youpeople@

      So like mitt – – – BUT, what he doesn't tell you is that Muslims at least believe in the Annunciation, whereas mitt and his cult believe Jesus Christ was created by a god who used to me a man that came down from his godly planet and conceived Jesus within Mary! Evangelicals will still vote for this man – – – hyprocrites!

      September 16, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • youpeople@

      And which of Mitt's many gods is he talking about since every man like himself will become a god and rule his own planet and populate the planet with his spirit wives.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  8. Justin Case

    Are the Christian fundamentalists clear on which God Mitt is referring to? Is it the God of the Old Testament, the God of the New Testament, or the God of the third book Mitt carries around? Just like his tax returns, we will probably never know for sure....

    September 16, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      All of those Gods are imaginary. They differ only in details of their fanciful background stories.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • escher7

      TomTom: I can't wait to meet you.

      – God

      September 16, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @God,

      We can't wait to meet you either. If you do exist, you have to now answer to a higher moral authority. All of your genocide, ordering the murder of women and children, condoning r@pe and slavery and the countless diseases you've let destroy so many lives including those of innocent children will not be so easily forgiven. Prepare to experience the wrath of humanity.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  9. Dan

    Which God is Mitt Romney going to keep in his heart; the God whos son said, render Caesar the things that are Caesar's and render to God the things that are God's, or maybe the Mormon god who says that having more children gets you a higher place in heaven, or maybe as a flip flopper, Mitt Romney has a different God for all occasions and needs. Let's see if Romney's belief in having God as the center of U.S. government activities means that he will also encourage Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and numerous other religions to have their gods in the government square. I thought that he was running for President of the United States and not President of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  10. chuck

    There is no god. Stop trying to force it into politics.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Jeff

      Or even if there is a god, quit trying to force your "one" true version of him into politics. Religious freedom requires it and the government to be completely separate. How many mainstream Christians would love to shut down the Mormon church and convert its members over to the "correct" form of Christianity?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  11. Chris33

    In the last two years over 1,000 anti choice bills were introduced at the state level by Republicans.

    From the Center for Reproductive Rights report:

    "The Center is hard-pressed to cite a time in the last twenty years that can rival - in volume and in severity - this most recent period of anti-woman, anti-child, and anti-health legislative action in the United States."

    September 16, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  12. kenny

    invoking god is the last act of a desperate man....

    September 16, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • escher7

      "God – why am I losing this election?"

      September 16, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  13. ericgoestoholland

    Everybody knows that the man who puts in the most good words for God will be divinely ordained the next president of the United States....

    September 16, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Sony Bozo & Chair

      What is the difference between the US and the Iran theocracy ? GOD runs our country, ALLAH runs their country !!!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  14. Sony Bozo & Chair

    If i were NOT paying any taxes in the last 10 years, I don't have to show ANY tax return , ha ha !!!

    September 16, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  15. Chris33

    Romney couldn't even visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  16. Tom Joad

    He says while wearing his special Mormon underwear.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  17. Chris33

    According to Fox News columnist Sally Kohn, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday "was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."

    September 16, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  18. Chris33

    Why won't Mitt show us his tax returns for the last 12 years?

    What is he hiding?

    September 16, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • End Religion

      he had a bulk dild0 purchase in 2009 that would be embarrassing for the public to learn. oops...

      September 16, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Frank

      He is hiding an incredible amount of secrets that would cause him to lose the election. If he released his tax returns, everyone would see how evil and dangerous he is.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  19. Steve

    So which part of the Republican platform is the LIE? The one that says government should be smaller and not intervene in private matters, or the one that says government should force everyone to behave as the Christian extremists wish? Because they can't both be true.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • The Republican postiions on gay marriage, abortion rights, prayer in schools, religious artifacts in public places etc. suggests that they are very interested in intervening in things we consider private.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  20. Chris33

    Romney's Son of Boss fraud

    In his key role as chairman of the Marriott board's audit committee, Romney approved the firm's reporting of fictional tax losses exceeding $70 million generated by its Son of Boss transaction.

    Romney's AMPAD fraud

    American Pad and Paper. Romney and Bain Capital bought it from Mead Company, when it had total debts of $11 million. By the time they sold it, the company had $400 million in debt - and Bain had earned $100 million off the deals, between fees it charged the company for managing it and for buying other companies, and profits from selling the company's stock after they took it public (for yet another fee). Bain was later sued by stockholders for fraud in overstating the value of the company.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Chris,

      I presume you know that the Marriotts are Mormons. (Jobs for the boys and all that.) The "W" in J.W.Marriott is "Willard".

      The American Pad and Paper story is a common hedgefund play. Blackstone did exactly the same thing to the tech company Freescale, saddling the company with the debt for the loan that Blackstone borrowed to buy Freescale in the first place – then exiting their position 'fees' in hand. In the meantime huge numbers of people lost their jobs at Freescale.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:30 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.