Over the weekend, Mitt Romney incorporated some new rhetoric into his stump speech: "I will not take 'God' out of the name of our platform. I will not take 'God' off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart. We're a nation bestowed by God."
When we discussed this yesterday, I got an email from reader G.S. suggesting this wouldn't last -- Romney was in Virginia Beach, a religious right stronghold, just a few feet from radical TV preacher Pat Robertson. This was an example of Romney catering his message to a specific audience, G.S. said, not a sign of things to come.
I wish that were true, but consider the speech Romney delivered in Mansfield, Ohio, yesterday:
"I honor my promises. One of those promises was the one that I made and the ones that I made in the pledge of allegiance. I believe it's important to have a president, and I would be a president, if elected, that honors that pledge, all the pledges that I make."That pledge says that we are a nation under God. If I'm president of the United States, when and if I become president of the United States, I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take it out of the platform of my party."
The Romney campaign still wants us to believe the candidate's central focus is on the economy, but given the recent rhetoric on welfare, contraception, Israel, and the sudden outburst of "God" talk, I think it's fair to say Romney The Corporate Turnaround Artist has once again metamorphosed into Romney The Culture Warrior.
For the record, in case anyone cares about the substance, the word "God" isn't being removed from U.S. currency; no one is trying to remove God from "the public square," and President Obama didn't take references to "God" out the Democratic Party platform; he did the opposite.
So why is Romney shifting away from his jobs message? For one thing, he didn't have much of a choice -- it hasn't worked and Romney's still losing. For another, the Republican candidate probably sees value in exploiting his base's sense of victimization and cultural tribalism.
But this tack is not without risks. Romney's message is suddenly all over the place, and the more he pretends God is his running mate, the more likely it is Romney's Mormon faith will become a campaign issue.