Mitt Romney went there.
So far, the Republican nominee has mostly — though not entirely — steered clear of the culture wars, relentlessly framing the election as a referendum on President Obama’s economic policies. But on Saturday, days after the Democratic National Convention ended and a new round of punditry gave the president higher odds of winning re-election, Romney hit the campaign trail with televangelist Pat Robertson and all but accused Obama of turning his back on God.
“That pledge says ‘under God.’ I will not take God out of our platform,” Romney told a roaring crowd in Virginia Beach, after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “I will not take God off our coins. And I will not take God out of my heart. We’re a nation bestowed by God.”
The candidate was capitalizing on a snafu at the Democratic convention wherein party chieftains sought to add the word “God” to their platform after being criticized for omitting it. The document was amended despite loud opposition from many delegates. His campaign operatives sought to play up the flap to reporters during the week but Romney himself did not zero in on it as an issue until Saturday.
The move rankled the Obama campaign, which accused him of lies, desperation and division.
“It’s disappointing to see Mitt Romney try to throw a Hail Mary by launching extreme and untrue attacks against the President and associating with some of the most strident and divisive voices in the Republican Party, including Rep. Steve King and Pat Robertson,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “This isn’t a recipe for making America stronger, it’s a recipe for division and taking us backward.”
Romney’s remarks may simply be a onetime paean to his party’s social conservative base. Or they could signal a desire to bring cultural wars prominently into the mix as a close election hits its final stretch.
Watch the video of Romney’s remarks, via BuzzFeed.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.