VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Making reference for the first time to the Democrats' about-face on having the word "God" in their party's platform, Mitt Romney said here today that if he is elected, God will not be removed from the Republican platform.
"I will not take God out of the name of our platform," said Romney to thunderous applause. "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."
It was Romney's first reference to last week's awkward proceedings during the Democratic National Convention, in which after one day the platform was amended to include the word "God" and name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reportedly under the instruction of President Obama.
Romney debuted a new stump speech here today, one that hinged on the candidate leading the crowd of thousands in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I remember as a boy, I was in the fourth grade, somehow in my mind I remember being there in the fourth grade in front of the blackboard, we had an American flag that was pinned in front of the blackboard. And every day we stood, lined up in front of that blackboard and we recited the pledge of allegiance. Do you remember?" asked Romney, launching into the pledge.
"When I make a promise I intend to keep a promise, and I've done that through all my life. When I made that promise time and time again in my pledge of allegiance to the flag I remembered that flag and I remember it to this day," Romney said.
Then, drawing on each clause of the pledge, Romney ticked down is list of campaign promises.
"One nation indivisible," he said, before vowing not to divide the nation or "apologize for America abroad."
"With liberty and justice for all," Romney continued, saying he will "not forget that for us to have liberty here, for us to be able to protect ourselves from the most evil around the world, for us to share liberty with our friends around the world, we must have a military second to none, so strong no one would ever think of testing it."
And in referring to "justice for all," Romney continued that he does not believe it's just to pass on debts, adding, "I also don't think it's justice for all when a nation as prosperous as ours, the most prosperous major nation in the history of the earth, to have one in every six people below the line of poverty."
And with that, his use of the Pledge of Allegiance as a vehicle to deliver his own promises, had come full circle.
"We believe in a nation under god, a nation indivisible, a nation united, a nation with justice and liberty for all," said Romney reciting the final clause in full. "And for that to happen, we're going to have to have a new president that will commit to getting America working again; that will commit to a strong military; that will commit to a nation under god that recognizes that we the American people were given our rights not by government but by God himself."
Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden said before rally that the campaign anticipates Virginia will be a tight race until November.
"I think those people are very anxious about the direction of the country and I think they represent a pretty unique opportunity for us to win the state," Madden said. "It's going to be a very close race in Virginia, I'd expect all the way through."
Romney notably chose Virginia as the site for the announcement of his choice for running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, in August, but has not been back to the state since, scrapping plans to rally here with Ryan last week to make a stop in Louisiana to visit areas damaged by Hurricane Isaac.