Mitt Romney closed the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., with his acceptance speech Thursday night, speaking the language of religious conservatives when he promised to "honor the institution of marriage" if elected president.
The former Massachusetts governor devoted a large chunk of the almost 40-minute speech to his personal biography and an attempt to close his campaign's gap with women voters. He talked about how his father, former Michigan governor George Romney, supported his mother in her run for Senate, and he made a rare public mention of his Mormon faith.
"We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan; that might have seemed unusual or out of place, but I really don't remember it that way," he said. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to."
Romney pivoted to criticize the record of President Barack Obama, saying, "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
The Republican nominee said he would focus on employment if elected. He said he would create 12 million new jobs with tools including tax cuts, domestic energy independence, deficit reduction, and the repeal of the health care reform law.
"President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet," he said. "My promise is to help you and your family."
Romney offered a quick assurance to religious conservatives toward the end of his speech. Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, claimed credit for authoring the party platform's extensive plank against marriage equality, but the candidate shied from mentioning specifics like the federal marriage amendment or the Defense of Marriage Act, which he supports.
"As president, I will protect the sanctity of life," he said. "I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America's first liberty: the freedom of religion."
The remarks capped three nights of prime-time convention speeches in which top Romney surrogates subtly acknowledged the marriage equality issue in somewhat coded language. Vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan called Romney a "defender of marriage" in his speech Wednesday, while Ann Romney had said, "What Mitt and I have is a real marriage." Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was more explicit at the podium, calling President Obama a "self-professed evangelical" who "supports changing the definition of marriage."
Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced Romney, also talked about the primacy of religion to the American experience.
"We are special because we've been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We're bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have," he said.
"Our national motto is 'In God we Trust,' reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all," continued Rubio.
GOProud, the only group representing gay conservatives that has endorsed the Romney-Ryan ticket, praised the presidential nominee's speech in a statement. Executive director Jimmy LaSalvia said Romney "reminded us of exactly why this endorsement was such an easy one for our organization."
"For far too long, the gay left in this country has been allowed to dictate what they believe qualify as 'gay issues,'" he said. "We think that jobs, the economy, health care, retirement security and taxes are all 'gay issues,' and on every single one of those issues, Mitt Romney is light-years better than President Obama."
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