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. Mike L

    According to Jesus, true faith is not in the words we speak or denomination we belong to. Rather, true faith is what one believes in the heart (Romans 10:9-13).
    When each one of us stands before God on the day of judgement, there is only one thing that God is going to look at. How did we live our lives. True faith in Jesus Christ will always evidence itself in how one live. God does not believe what we say, rather, He believes what we do.
    We know for a fact that Jesus is the Christ not by what He said but what He did. Jesus paid the penalty for humanity's sin by dying that horrible death on the cross so that each one of us could have the opportunity to become children of God by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior.
    Those reading this comment that have not committed your life to Jesus, please don't put it off. Today is the day of salvation for tomorrow is not a guarantee. God Bless You.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  2. See Novak

    Three Romney hit-pieces in a row...nothing like good journalism, CNN.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      If you want the pro-Romney news network, I'm sure you know where to go.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Realist

    If American's vote a Morman in as President, they deserve exactly what they will get.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  4. sbreezy

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. mitt tell us about the magic underwear ! this guy will try anything to get elected....and none of it makes any sense at all. NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME

    September 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  5. Vicki

    This god-talk is the act of a desperate candidate pandering to the bitter end. He is, as John Huntsman put it so well, "a perfectly lubricated weather vane."

    September 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Indeed so.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  6. andrew

    Romney, the biggest political christian on earth, speaks blasphemy. To try to 'out God' another politician to get elected is dishonest and Satan-like. My faith is not for sale. Romney believes he can buy it, scare it, or lie it out of me, to make me vote republican. He'll NEVER do it – EVER! What he's doing is a horrible sin and he'll burn in hell for trying to do it. I'll never vote for such a sinful man.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  7. jj

    If his audience needs a religious person, he dons the robes...if his audience is war mongers, he talks the war line...Mitt is anything his audience at that moment wants him to be. He's about the biggest liar we've ever had run for this high office.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  8. Vincent

    Separation of church and state !!

    Why is this clown pandering to the religious nuts? The current GOP seems to want to turn the US into a theocracy, the same as IRAN!
    The economy wont improve by 'praying', we need action to get people back to work and keep the economy moving!

    September 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  9. Wow

    Flippity Flop – here we go again! I was waiting for Mitt's daily strange move and here it is. This rhetoric will hurt him yet more with the center voters....ohhh Mitt, Where art thou's head?

    September 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Where are his handlers? Where is his campaign manager? Where are his friggin' brains?

      September 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  10. Syd

    'Cause if history has taught us anything, it's taught us that the bigger role religion plays in government, the more peaceful and successful a nation is.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • jj

      Syd, your dillusional...probably because you want to believe that. All these middle east countries are highly religious...how do they look to you?

      September 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Umm, I think, jj, you may have mistaken sarcasm for sincerity.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • yogi

      Wow Syd, you can't be serious with that comment! Have you ever opened a history book? More wars have been fought because of religions, yes, also Christians as well as Muslims. Thank God there is separation of State and church in this country, it is the republicans who never seem to understand this.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • jtknh

      Ah yes, and this is why the middle-east is so peacful and quiet. right. religion has no place in government. period.

      September 15, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  11. olivia

    I wonder if Romney even knows that the phrase "under God" was added to the pledge only in his lifetime.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  12. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


    Weren't you coming back in "5 minutes" to show me what you go?

    Guess you got nothing. Big shock.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      September 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  13. btinc

    Uh, which God? The Mormon God? The Hindu God?

    What a panderer.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Vicki

      The god who lives near the (never scientifically located) planet kolob.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  14. Mormon Magical Underwear

    Step right up folks Step right up!!!!!! Romney is giving out some goodies at the Republican Convention!!!!!! First you will reciev a free pair of MORMON MAGICAL UNDERWEAR that protects you from evil when you click your heels together,and only the most devout shall never take them off even during a bath.Then you will recieve a picture of The Mormon Messiah Joesoph Smith who the Mormons worship over Jesus,Joesoph Smith was a con man,molester,Polygamist and a murderer,yet he is revered higher than christ.......Then you will recieve the BOOK OF MORMON that the con man molester Joesoph Smith wrote to help him control his followers and Brainwash them....You will also recieve the teachings on how all people of color are products of evil.....like the Mormon church teaches.Last but not least you will recieve directions to the planet in outer space named KOLOB where the Mormons believe their god lives and if you die wearing your Mormon Magical Underwear you will become a god too and fly in outer space to be with Joesoph Smith on KOLOB wih as many wives as you want.......THIS IS NOT CHRISTIAN IN ANY WAY!!!!! Romney can click his heels to activate his magical underwear all he wants but christians will not buy his Phoney garbage religion......This religion was made up by a polygamist murderer who conned so many in the 1800s conservative repub christians will not vote or support such an evil vile man like Romney.Draft dodger.....cultist....tax evader......magic underwear...it just keeps getting better and better.............Romney does not belong anywhere but a padded room.....

    September 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • jj

      A relatively amusing rant....and the one thing about it that's true is that he belongs in a padded room.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  15. mshub8

    Presidents need to abandon 'God talk'. 'God talk' is a product of fear the Republicans enforced during the McCarthy era – it wasn't part of our pledge of allegiance; it wasn't the US motto; etc., etc.. Let Romeny take us back to the stoneage!

    September 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  16. whitepine

    The Chirstian God had the devil in the middle of the Garden of Eden. The devil sure seems to be active all over this earth despite all the talk that God control all that happens here and he blesses us. . To me, earth seems to be a miserable place and it never seems to get any better. .

    September 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  17. Gadflie

    Not sure that Romney bringing his religion into play is really going to help with the base. Many of them are unsure about Mormons.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I guess Mark DeMoss has worked on branding and marketing with Mitt. Focus groups have suggested that he stealth down his Mormonism and just talk about God. "Which God?" "You know, God – what everyone thinks of when you say God."

    September 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  19. Joe Smith's #4 Wife

    Mormon's believe it is their mission to make the government represent the Mormon church. Lot at Salt Lake City.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  20. Dot

    "To whom much is given, much is expected" ( the Bible, the word of God) I pay all my taxes due and not one penny more.( Mitt Romney)

    September 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • End Religion

      The bible, a fiction book like any other, is the word of man. There is no magic in the words, and it certainly shouldn't be a guide for anyone is trying to live a "good" life.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
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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.