- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, hoping to boost his lackluster image among conservatives, evoked a message filled with God and country themes before an influential gathering of conservative voters Saturday.

The former Massachusetts governor, while addressing the Values Voter Summit in Washington, said he is determined to make this century “an American century.”

“God didn’t create this country as a nation of followers,” he said. “In an American century, America has the strongest economy and strongest military in the world.”

“This is America’s moment. I will not surrender America’s role in the world.”

He added that as president, he would “never ever apologize for America.”

Mr. Romney’s 18-minute speech — the shortest of the seven GOP presidential candidates to speak at the three-day forum — addressed a litany of Republican touchstones, including anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage efforts, while calling out China for its birth control policies.

But the former governor didn’t bring up comments made Friday by Robert Jeffress, a Baptist pastor from Texas and supporter of rival GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, who called Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith a “cult.”

While much Mr. Romney’s address received hearty applause, the reaction lacked the volume and enthusiasm the audience exhibited a half-hour earlier when rival candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, took the stage.

The Texan didn’t disappoint his fiercely loyal conservative base, touching on his usual anti-government, anti-debt and pro-family messages.

“Our government should be strictly limited to the protection of the liberties that allow us to thrive,” said Mr. Paul to a roaring cheer. “Our liberties and our economy, they are under attack today.”

Mr. Paul cited the Bible frequently, saying that personal or national debt “is not a biblical principle.”

“Even in biblical times they weren’t looking for a central bank that was going to counterfeit our currency,” he said.

The outspoken lawmaker devoted several minutes to speaking out against war — both the nation’s current military operations as well as the general principle of armed conflict.

“Christ was recognized to be the prince of peace — he was never recognized as the promoter of war,” he said. “War [can] be necessary but only under dire circumstances and it should done with great caution. All other efforts should be exhausted before we go to war.”

Mr. Paul added — to the delight of the crowd — that the United States also must only enter war “under the proper authority.”

“The proper authority is not the U.N. or the NATO forces that take us to war,” he said.

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