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. Ozzie

    Poor Mitt. Trying so hard to dislike more peole than Santorum dislikes. That's the barometer of a good President – alienate and condemn as many people and groups of people that you can. Ask Mitt what he means by a secular agenda. As E.J. Dionne once said, "other than abortion, Obama talks Catholic." Poor Mitt. Trying to sound as hateful as Santorum.

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

    Sorry diridi, I meant ". . . and agree with diridi's posts."

    February 21, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Mitt Romney is wading into deep waters, and he thinks his "I'm a conservative" life jacket is protecting him from drowning.

    February 21, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Liberals need to learn that when a politician is defending himself, it means that he is losing the issue.

    February 21, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  5. TonyK

    Obama pursues a secular agenda? I should certainly hope so! He is president of the United States, not a mullah, guru, priest, or bishop. What, exacty, is wrong with pursuing a secular agenda as leader of the free world?

    Oh, and before you anti secular humanist types chime in–I've never met a born-again Christian who was not a humanist first and a Christian second. We are all secular, and we are all humanists. Look up the terms.

    February 21, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  6. Kris Craig

    You can't claim to be "100% pro-life" in one breath and support the Death Penalty in the next.

    February 21, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. Jake

    you've gone too far, Romney! i liked you as a Moderate, and now you are starting to believe your own delusion!! you've sold out to the far right and you will lose the nomination for it! and please don't run a third time!

    February 21, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. Fair is Fair

    Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Valentina – Did you mean words of wisdom? Actually, most people enjoy and agree with diridi.
    -------
    Enjoy? Yeah, in a train-wreck kind of way. Agree? Ummmmmmmm.... nah.

    February 21, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. UncleM

    The president should have a secular agenda – not one proscribed by a relgion and its bronze age book.

    February 21, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. keeth

    he's a radical muslim who pushes a secular agenda and has been recorded/photographed at christian churches for the last 20 years. yeah, that makes sense. the GOP will throw whatever label they can to frighten their ignorant base.

    February 21, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Really?

    Yea yea. Lets fight to protect unborn babies, but to h-e-l-l with the living. SMH.

    February 21, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    @Fair is Fair
    Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Valentina – Did you mean words of wisdom? Actually, most people enjoy and agree with diridi.
    ---
    Enjoy? Yeah, in a train-wreck kind of way. Agree? Ummmmmmmm.... nah.

    February 21, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |

    **********************************************************************************************************************************

    You're derailing the topic. Duh.

    February 21, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. Anthony R. Seta

    Well, you've got to give the GOP credit. In regards to religion and negative isms from the 20th century, the conservatives have all bases covered for the formula that Obama = bad to feed as red meat to the base;
    1) Obama = Secular Agenda
    2) Obama = muslim sympathy agenda (he talks to muslims like in Cairo and his father was from a family with Islamic tradition)
    3) Obama = Hilter (and all aspects of nazism)
    4) Obama = Stalin (and all aspects of socialism/communism)
    5) Obama = Anti-Christ (and all aspects of demonic possession, etc...)

    My president just can not get any respect from these people. But this is ok. This primary process has forced the conservatives to show their agenda in an open format. It won't be possible to solely focus on the economy and gas prices. Not after this fiasco of bizarre theology and conspiracy theories that is part of the daily news cycles. The GOP won't be able to put all this stuff back in a box to be forgotten now that it has percolated to the surface during primaries. Once the general election campagin begins, the republicans will rue these days of February as their party gets crushed, pummeled and hammered in the elections.

    February 21, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The GOP,in typical animal fashion, attacks in packs.
    Santorum started this b.s. of calling into question our President's Christianity (so what if he wasn't?). His lameazz act was followed by the "unsolicited" and annointment and endorsement of Romney by young Graham (the Koch brothers said the check is in the mail, by the way). And now to deliver the final punch here comes Rmoney himself.
    How ridiculous is it for a man who believes in Magic Underwear, and whose religious hierarchy felt that Black people were filthy animals not worthy of admission into their cult?
    Romney would bypass Jesus on the road to dismatling another corporation to improve shareholders profits. He wouldn't recognize John Everyman because he's never lived amongst them. He wouldn't know our needs as average Americans because he's never experienced them.
    Shut up heathens. Sit down. Be still and you will learn who is your God.
    Obama 2012.

    February 21, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. enuff

    Obviously Santorum was hogging all the spotlight on this so Romney had to put his two cents in. Too bad he didn't think about what he wanted to say before he spoke and actually say something intelligent instead of parroting Santorum. Do either of them stop to think that it takes checks and balances from the other governmental branches before they can arbitrary cut funding to programs?

    February 21, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. WhereIsPalin

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

    Without the right to life, we'll have no one to send into war.

    February 21, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. tor5

    What a great show! What are Republicans to do with the recovering economy quickly becoming a non-issue? Of course, they cannibalize each other over who is more against birth control and who has the “right” Christian faith. Or, if you’re Newt, you somehow forget that Obama killed Bin Laden and ended two wars and call him a “national security risk.” Now that’s entertainment!

    February 21, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. Fair is Fair

    @ SOUTHERN HOTTIE –

    Your comment makes about as much sense as T'sah's poetry, and is just as hard to stomach.

    February 21, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Pardon me. That should've read: How ridiculous is it for a man who believes in Magic Underwear, and whose religious hierarchy felt that Black people were filthy animals not worthy of admission into their cult to call into question another man's faith and Christian principles?

    February 21, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  20. BR

    Freedom of Religion should mean that my boss doesn't get to pick my health care based on his religious views. If a JW bought Fox news, would they be okay with him cutting funding for modern medicine and blood transfusions?

    To paraphrase George Carlin "the right want live babies so they can grow up to be dead soldiers"

    February 21, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. The Real Tom Paine

    Watching Mitt Romney attempt to re-invent himself as a social conservative is painful. He cheerfully supported abortion rights as a Senate candidate and as a governor, and I suspect he is still as uncomfortable using his faith as an excuse to inflict his views upon others as he has always been: he's just afraid to say it because he knows it won't fly in the bizarro-world the GOP now inhabits. Its just painful to watch him try to sell something he really does not believe.

    February 21, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Well-oiled weather vane Romney, indeed. This guy has no core. Santorum is running with evangelicaql meme and Romney thinks imitating him will win him the establishment vote. Pbbttt. What a loser. Meanwhile, I'm still voting for "that one."

    February 21, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  23. yogi

    These Republican candidates have no shame. The inclusion of religion in the debate, the lies, distortion of truth, the intolerance, their self righteousness. It really is mind boggling and so utterly sad of what they stand for. And the worst of it all is that they are supported by who-knows how many millions.......

    February 21, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. Voice of Reason

    '...Secular agenda...' is TeaParty / GOP dog-whistle for 'Non-evangelical-Christian'.

    So why dont they just come out and say it? "If you're not like us, then you must be wrong." Isnt that the definition of willful ignorance? People think they are somehow 'defending America' against a decline – but they miss the big picture, which is that they are defending America by eroding the very freedoms that define it.

    February 21, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  25. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    @Fair is Fair
    @ SOUTHERN HOTTIE –

    Your comment makes about as much sense as T'sah's poetry, and is just as hard to stomach.

    February 21, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
    **********************************************************************************************************************

    Well, you may find something more palatable and familiar to you at FOX NOISE. Have a nice day. :)

    February 21, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
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