Appearing via video at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual meeting Saturday morning, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) delivered a speech that hinged on social issues but also focused in on what remains the top issue in the presidential election — the economy.
“If people want a president that will give the middle class of America a fair shot, they’ll vote for me, and I hope you do,” Romney, dressed in a suit and standing in front of his campaign bus in Pennsylvania, told the several hundred social conservatives gathered in Washington for the summit.
In his prepared remarks, Romney spoke of “anchors,” which he said include family and the Constitution.
The national health-care law, he argued “attacks freedoms. Raising taxes attacks freedoms.” And the Obama administration’s decision on contraceptive coverage “attacks our first freedom — religious freedom,” he said.
“All these things impinge upon our freedoms. . . . I think America is stronger when we’re lashed firmly to the anchors that keep us steady,” he said.
At times, he struck a note that bore similarities to the message former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) delivered on the campaign trail.
He told the crowd that his message to young people is to “get married before they have children, because the opportunity for a mom and a dad to help guide the life of a child gives them such an enormous advantage.”
And he noted a 2009 Brookings study that Santorum has been fond of citing. The study, Romney said, shows that if Americans graduate from high school, work and get married before having children, their chance of becoming impoverished is dramatically reduced.
Romney fielded three pre-selected questions from the audience. In response to the first — “Do you agree with President Obama that the private sector is doing fine?” — Romney dinged Obama for the remark, which he argued is the latest evidence that the president is out of touch on the economy.
To the second question — “Do you agree that our national debt and runaway deficit spending is a moral issue as well as an economic issue? If so, how do you plan to address that with the American people?” — Romney told the crowd of his goal of getting the country’s budget in balance.
“You’ve got to get rid of some programs, and I’ve got a list of some programs that I’d get rid of,” he said.
And to the third question — “How would Romney strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship?” — Romney had a quip at the ready.
“Basically, I think you could just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite,” he said to laughter. He added that he would “be leading in Syria by encouraging our friends there like the Turks and the Saudis to provide weapons to the insurgents.”
Romney was introduced by his son, Josh, who spoke briefly about his dad’s work “turning around failed businesses” and the Salt Lake Olympics as well as his tenure as Massachusetts governor
Toward the end of his introduction, he joked to the crowd: “My dad can hear me, but he can’t talk back. So I can kind of say whatever I want.”