Romney invokes God, slams cuts to military

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Making a play for veterans and evangelical voters in this conservative military community, Mitt Romney pounded President Barack Obama for failing to stop defense spending cuts that were part of a deficit-cutting deal and accused him of straying from the nation’s founding principles.

At a military museum here Saturday afternoon, the Republican presidential candidate tried out a new version of his stump speech that, compared with past speeches, was heavy with references to God and centered on the Pledge of Allegiance.

After spontaneously reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in his speech, Romney noted that U.S. coins bear the motto “In God We Trust” and said he would resist any move to change that. (It was unclear what prompted the remark because striking the motto has not been proposed in recent memory by anyone in mainstream politics, including the president.)

He then segued into a criticism of Democrats for initially removing a reference to God in their party platform this week at the Democratic National Convention. (The reference to God was later restored, at the insistence of Obama.)

“For me, the Pledge of Allegiance and placing our hand over our heart reminds us of the blood that was shed by our sons and daughters fighting for our liberty and sharing liberty with people around the world,” he said. “The promises that were made in that pledge are promises I plan on keeping if I’m president, and I’ve kept them so far in my life. The pledge says ‘under God.’ 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 that’s bestowed by God.”

Romney adviser Kevin Madden said Romney made the reference to U.S. coins as an “example of where a principle like ‘In God We Trust’ is already on public display.”

Before an audience filled with veterans, Romney and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who introduced the Republican nominee at the event, said Obama had not done enough to halt pending defense cuts that are slated to take effect next year.

As part of the agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling last summer, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, including Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., agreed that automatic cuts in both defense and domestic spending, known as sequesters, would take effect next year unless Congress agreed on a better way to reduce the deficit.

Congress has not agreed on a better plan, so the cuts are still scheduled to take effect.

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