LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA, May 14, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – After months of struggling to connect with his own party’s voters, Mitt Romney addressed the concerns more important to social conservatives during his commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday.
Just days after Barack Obama told the nation he personally favors same-sex “marriage,” his likely Republican rival affirmed, “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
He credited Rick Santorum for quoting statistics showing that those who graduate high school, get a job, and are married before they have a baby have only a two percent likelihood of living in poverty.
“The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family,” he said.
Speaking at the university founded 41 years ago by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Romney said, “Culture makes all the difference” in a nation’s success or failure.
A pillar of America’s culture is religious liberty, a cherished freedom that has become a contested point of policy in battles over the HHS mandate, requiring Catholic charities to violate their faith for federal dollars, and the ministerial exemption.
“Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution,” Romney said. “And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.”
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While acknowledging his faith differs from that of the conservatives evangelicals he addressed, the former Mormon bishop said “people of different faiths, like yours and mine” can work together despite “so many differences in creed and theology.”
The speech proved a hit with evangelical and pro-family political leaders.
“His compassionate defense of marriage between a man and a woman and his call to protect the innocent unborn will strike a cord with millions of Americans of both parties,” Bauer said. “Value voters had much to cheer.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins agreed, “Mitt Romney picked up on the message that energized Rick Santorum’s campaign: America’s financial greatness is directly tied to moral and cultural wholeness. Mitt Romney’s address gives me a sense of hope that he will build on this message at a time when millions of voters are reeling from President Obama’s endorsement for redefining marriage.”
Perkins said Romney’s best friend among Republicans may be Barack Obama, especially after announcements like his endorsement of same-sex unions. “I think that Barack Obama has helped fit that missing piece of intensity that Mitt Romney is going to need,” Perkins said.
The president’s latest position will cost him votes, Perkins believes. “I don’t think the president did a political calculus to do this because if he did, he needs to go back to the calculator,” Perkins said on CBS’s Face the Nation.
The program’s hosts paired Perkins against former American Idol winner Clay Aiken.
The strategy of emphasizing social issues during this election is endorsed by, among others, Rick Santorum, who told Akaransas’ KARK-TV “this is a very potent weapon if you will for Gov. Romney if he is willing to step up and take advantage of a president who is very much out of touch with the values of America.”
“In every state where there has been a race about same sex marriage, traditional marriage has won and won actually by pretty comfortable numbers” – including North Carolina, which approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman last week.
Many Republicans remain squeamish about social issues or prefer not to campaign on them. The liberal Talking Points Memo reports, “The Republican establishment is singing a different tune, showing little interest in focusing on the issue, and instead fielding questions about it by pivoting to the economy.”