February 21st, 2012
02:27 PM ET
11 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. Lolo

    @ Jerrylax, please do your own research and stop listening to the news. No wonder you republicans are up the creek The followers and candidates are all crazy. As the republicans sees it we just want President Obama out. The man has done everything he could to help the middle class, but thanks to the dysfunctional GOP/TP party, America has been ambushed by a bunch of wackos may I add that you fools voted in just to stop his agenda. Then you have the nerve to want everyone else to vote with you? Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Not this year.

    February 21, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. Texas Doc

    Yeah, when is Mr. Magic Underpants going to get all un-secular and start talking about his cult? I am ready for the M-card to be played.

    February 21, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. Dina

    White evangelical voters compromise 23% of voters. Why do the GOP candidates seem to want to represent just that small slice of Americans? I know you can't make everyone happy, but really? Just pandering to 23%?

    February 21, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Fair is fair: I'd take those little blue pills that you say your husband doesn't need. You're wound up tighter than a cheap watch.

    February 21, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Tell em' Lolo!!!

    February 21, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  6. lucy2

    What happened to the focus on jobs, jobs, and nothing but jobs? Funny how once the economy started to show signs of turning around and hiring picked up, the GOP has turned to social issues to campaign on. Maybe because their candidates aren't offering anything else?
    Where exactly are these attacks on religious freedoms happening? Has anyone been prevented from worshipping how, when, and where they choose? Didn't think so.
    There was a great line on the Daily Show last week – "You've confused a "war on religion" with not always getting everything you want."

    February 21, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  7. Publius Novus

    Romney keeps telling us that he "understands" the national economy. If he does, then why does he keep whining about Santorum voting to raise the debt ceiling? If Romney truly understood the economy, he would know that: 1) the debt ceiling law is a meaningless statute unique to the United States; 2) failing to raise the debt ceiling when required would result in default; and 3) default would precipitate a national and worldwide economic catastrophe.

    February 21, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. yogi

    After the dust has settled, and the clown car drives into the sunset, we will say: Wow, that was quite a movie! Thank God it was not real, and intelligence and common sense can start breathing again.
    Obama 2012.

    February 21, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. freelance

    "Let Detroit go Bankrupt"! – enough said about Mitt Romney, the self-proclaimed prince of Michigan

    February 21, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. i want a mega rich Mormon who hides money overseas, and a master tax evader as president

    You should've keep you're flipflop mouth shut on this issue mittens, now you're Mormonism is fair game. Even I'm smarter than a fifth grader.

    February 21, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. Four and The Door

    What happened to the focus on jobs, jobs, and nothing but jobs?
    Unlike Obama, the Republican candidates are multidimensional. Obama can't seem to get past,"raise taxes.", which is really odd because he must have misunderstood that whole "we need jobs" thing to mean "we need government jobs". Those are the only jobs you create with higher taxes. Too bad they do very little to help the economy...

    February 21, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    "Let Detroit go Bankrupt"! – enough said about Mitt Romney, the self-proclaimed prince of Michigan
    They did go bankrupt. The difference is Mitt's plan didn't include $60 billion from taxpayers. I like his plan better.

    February 21, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Valentina

    @Wire Palladin, S. F. –

    ignorance can be cured, stupidity is forever my friend.

    February 21, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. Heather

    This campaign has to be about fiscal responsibility. The economy is bad, debt is too high, budgets aren't being balanced, and deficits are out of control. Romney has the pro-business background and economic expertise to fix the economy. I hope MI doesn't get so caught up in social issues that they forget why we really want Obama kicked out of office.

    February 21, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. Keyser Soze

    You'll have to forgive Fair. Fair just can't believe the weathervane is getting his lunch eaten by the sweater vested glum guy running for Pope of the US

    February 21, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. PJ/TX

    I would be willing to bet that English is Diridi's second, third or maybe even fourth language. What is your
    @Fair is Fair:
    I highly recommend you take Dominican Mama's advice before you explode. It could be messy, with that
    vemon flying around.

    February 21, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  17. Taran

    I wonder how Obama's Ministry of Truth, uuuhhhh, I mean Truth Team, is doing.

    February 21, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. PJ/TX

    Correction: venom

    February 21, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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