February 21st, 2012
02:27 PM ET
3 years ago

Tackling social issues, Romney hits Obama's 'secular agenda'

Shelby Township, Michigan (CNN) – Campaigning in advance of the crucial Michigan primary, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama Tuesday for pursuing a "secular agenda" during a wide-ranging town hall meeting that veered into social issues the GOP candidate often skirts.

For many weeks Romney has largely eschewed the town hall format in favor of controlled rallies or business round table meetings - and indeed, the questions he fielded from audience members in Shelby, Michigan were not in Romney's economic wheelhouse but on topics such as abortion, religious freedom and aid for the mentally disabled.

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One woman told Romney she remained undecided after attending "the other fellow's thing last week" - an apparent reference to former Sen. Rick Santorum, a vocal social conservative who leads in state polls and has campaigned aggressively in Michigan - but said Romney could convince her by answering "one last question."

"I just want to hear you say you are 100% pro-life," Feleiteau Epley a retired financial planner, told the candidate.

In a lengthy response that covered his record in Massachusetts, Romney pledged that as president he would cut off funding Planned Parenthood, a women's health care provider that also offers abortion services, and said he would appoint justices who "don't stray from the Constitution."

"I am pro-life," Romney declared. "I am in favor of protecting the sanctity of life."

When he answered about what qualities he would seek in a vice presidential candidate, Romney's first qualification was that his nominee be pro-life.

Another man referred to a controversy over whether the Obama administration would require religious employers to cover contraception for female employees, and asked Romney whether he would "secure our religious freedom" as president.

"You expect the president of the United State to be sensitive to that freedom and protect it," Romney said of Obama. "And unfortunately, perhaps because of the people the president hangs around with and their agenda, their secular agenda, they have fought against religion."

The GOP candidate seemed to make a rare, indirect reference to his Mormon religion as he assured the audience he would protect religious freedoms.

"I can assure you, as someone who has understood very personally the significance of religious tolerance and religious freedom and the right to one's own conscience, I will make sure that we never again attack religious liberty in the United States of America," he said.

Romney played up his Michigan roots to the enthusiastic audience, after being introduced as an underdog in the state where his father served as governor.

"We've got a barn burner of a campaign right now in Michigan and Mitt Romney is fighting like an underdog," said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. "Mitt Romney is the comeback kid."

Some members of that audience voiced their support for Romney by asking friendly questions about his rival Santorum.

"How are you and your campaign going to convince Michiganders in the next week that Rick Santorum is nothing but a Washington insider?" a woman asked. "I don't understand the surge."

Romney offered a lengthy attack on Santorum's career as a Washington senator and derided the former senator's substantial loss in Pennsylvania in 2006.

"I think the tea party would find it very interesting that Rick Santorum voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without getting compensating reductions in spending," Romney said, and faulted his rival for defending earmarks he passed in the Senate. "I don't think that is consistent with the principles of conservatism."

Also see:

Paul ad slams Santorum

Obama campaign takes a swing at Santorum

Gingrich describes Obama as a national security risk

Franklin Graham questions Obama, Romney on Christian Faith


Filed under: 2012 • Michigan • Mitt Romney
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Corporations of America

    Never forget to ask a "pro-lifer" if they are a vegetarian. We should respect all life that God has given us, except for the animals God also gave us so they can fill their glutonous guts.

    February 21, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    On the foreign owned media station with a Saudi flair, Fox, candidate Mittens told Huckabee that he would support a law that a fertilized egg is a human being. Even Mississippi rejected that. But for single issue voters, Mittens is running a close second to Santorum.

    February 21, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. Davis

    All this may be for nothing, Mitt. I'm afraid the GOP want a brokered convention and they may well get it. The GOP establishment wants one so they can select Jeb Bush to continue the Bush-Clinton crime family.

    February 21, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. jerrylax

    obama...the most devisive president in the history of America...that is his legacy. Even other countries distrust him...The Saudis cut oil production in December against obamas begging them not to...for example.

    February 21, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. diridi

    Entire the nation lost credibility on this idiot. Does he know what is Secular....

    February 21, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. packerfans

    Come on Vote for Mitt Romney can save America!!

    February 21, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. diridi

    Bain Capital, corporations are also People, my friend"......enough of this idiot. Obama2012.

    February 21, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. Valentina

    @diridi – do you know how to form a sentence? Word of wisdom for you: if you don't have anything to say, don't say it.

    February 21, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. cali girl

    I am trying to understand why romney and santo claim to love this country but clearly dislike the American people. Instead of preaching your case of theology, how about stumping for the countries issues. Get out of your pulpits.

    February 21, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    Mittens, we're a secular society, we're not a theocracy. And you should be glad, too: The majority of "Christians" in this country think you belong to a cult and if they had their druthers, they'd ship you off to a concentration camp.

    February 21, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. Dave

    "When he answered about what qualities he would seek in a vice presidential candidate, Romney's first qualification was that his nominee be pro-life."
    --------------–
    Look, I realize that most Republicans aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, but do you dolts really buy this garbage? If so, you're going to get wiped out in November.

    February 21, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. bobcat

    Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
    -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

    February 21, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Mittens and Sanitorium and all these other GOP presidential wannabes are desperate to distract the American voting public from the FACT that they have nothing to offer our country except anger, fear, hatred and division – because Lord knows, all of their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    February 21, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. Biggge

    While this guy is crushing Woman rights with statement like Romney pledged that as president he would cut off funding Planned Parenthood, a women's health care provider that also offers abortion services. Obama pushing Congress on initiatives for the middle class...While Obama is workering these guys are just doing a lot of talking.. Obama did this or Obama did that...It strange how men think they know more about women health as a womaen does.. Obama great job supporting woman health.. Keep up the great work...

    February 21, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Wvazoe

    Ask a proclaimed pro- lifer if they support the death penalty.

    February 21, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Wvazoe

    @ jerrylax
    show me the source where Obama "begged" the Saudi's.

    February 21, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Kansan

    The trees..their height...so perfect!

    February 21, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  18. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Notice how the right wingnuts blame Obama for the republican candidates' circular firing squad. As for being divisive, the republicans have attacked women's rights, veterans, senoir citizens, minorities, workers, the middle class, in order to cater to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. That my wingnuts is being divisive.

    February 21, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  19. Noodle Nose Johnson

    Another "bold" stance from Romney. Wait until someone else sticks their neck out and then say "me too!". Of course, he's only further alienating himself from mainstream voters by siding with nutjob Santorum so I'm all for it.

    February 21, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. craig

    In case Romney...and others in the GOP...didn't notice, the office of President of the United State IS a secular job. Unlike some countries, there is no "religious requirement" to have the job, and you don't automatically become the Head of the State Church. I would hope to hell his agenda is "Secular" because I dread the thought of having a President with a "religious agenda!"

    February 21, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Biggge

    @jerrylax

    When have the Saudis cut oil production, this would crash the entire market.. your fact are incorrect and you sound like a GOP that hopes oil prices keep going up... Please reseach before placing incorrect facts on the blog...

    February 21, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    "And unfortunately, perhaps because of the people the president hangs around with and their agenda, their secular agenda, they have fought against religion."

    That should seal Rmoney's fate with sane voters, who prefer a secular government agenda. At this point, Flipper the Elitist Robot is just shamelessly pandering in hopes of peeling off some of Mr. Frothy's support. In the actual election, though, Rmoney is toast.

    February 21, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Emmy Skaddittle

    wow, the flipper has become a religious zealot all of a sudden

    February 21, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. jaywing

    @jerrylax. you, re-quoting Newt, when all the independent fact checks show that what the Newtster said this morning are almost all fabrications, distortions or outright lies - from the price of gas to the crazy idea that other countries distrust he US because of Obama's policies (which is exactly opposite of all reported findings) simply speaks to your myopic, Fox-News driven world view - skewed, twisted, and patently false. Try thinking for yourself, instead of vomiting-up the drivel the GOP/TP feeds you through their 24-hour propaganda machine funded by the 1%..

    February 21, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Valentina – Did you mean words of wisdom? Actually, most people enjoy and agree with diridi.

    February 21, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
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