Although Romney spoke of common spiritual values, he did not discuss his personal faith. The candidate who is poised to make history as the first Mormon to win a major party’s presidential nomination made no reference to his Mormonism.
“Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life,” Romney said. “From the beginning, this nation has trusted in God, not man. . . . There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.”
Romney journeyed to this bucolic campus in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains at a pivotal moment in his campaign. By simply visiting the university founded in 1971 by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell — a campus that rose to national prominence during the Moral Majority movement of the 1980s — Romney made his most overt play yet for support from within the evangelical movement.
But although Romney tried with Saturday’s speech to unite Christian conservatives who had resisted his candidacy through a polarizing Republican primary, he also sought to appeal to the country’s moderate middle — the independent voters who could prove decisive in key battleground states this fall.
The candidate largely ignored the cultural issues that are dividing the nation’s electorate, and he neither mentioned President Obama by name nor delivered the attack on Obama’s economic stewardship that has become the cornerstone of Romney’s campaign.
Romney made a single reference to gay marriage, a hot-button issue thrust into the news this week with Obama’s announcement that he supports letting same-sex couples wed.
“Culture — what you believe, what you value, how you live — matters,” Romney said. “As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate from time to time. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
At that, the audience rose to its feet and gave Romney the loudest ovation of his speech.
Most of the address, however, was a tour through the religious values that Romney said defines the American experience.
“What we have, what we wish we had — ambitions fulfilled, ambitions disappointed; investments won, investments lost; elections won, elections lost — these things may occupy our attention, but they do not define us,” Romney said. “And each of them is subject to the vagaries and serendipities of life. Our relationship with our Maker, however, depends on none of that. It is entirely in our control, for He is always at the door and knocks for us.”