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Romney plays for evangelical support before South Carolina Debate


MYRTLE BEACH, SC-- Making a rare debate-day appearance at a revival meeting-like event packed with Christian conservative voters, Mitt Romney tweaked his traditional stump speech to highlight a handful of social issues he rarely mentions unprompted on the trail.

Romney's appearance -- along with those of the other four remaining presidential candidates -- at today's Faith and Freedom Coalition event underscores the importance of the conservative Christian vote here. In a December NBC News/Marist poll of likely South Carolina voters, 44 percent identified themselves as fundamentalist or evangelical Christians, and capturing even a slice of this constituency could help Romney close out his third consecutive primary victory in a state where most polling shows him holding onto a narrow lead.

The former Massachusetts governor's brief remarks today went beyond his normal jobs-and-economy-focused message to contrast his positions on social issues with those of President Obama.

"[Obama's] path is one which sends the vice president of the United States to China, where he tells the people there that he understands their one child policy -- where he understands ... all that's associated with it, the abuses associated with that policy." Romney said. "My view is the next president  of the United States should stand up for the sanctity of human life in the United States, and anywhere in the world in which it is threatened."

"This president has tried to pave the path for same-sex marriage to spread across the country," Romney continued. "My view is that we should defend the defense of marriage act and that we should have a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman."

Romney also made mention of new endorsers Jay and Jordan Sekulow, heads of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, with the elder Sekulow well known for arguing conservative social causes before the Supreme Court.

Not mentioned by Romney this afternoon: his's newest endorser, former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who suspended his campaign and endorsed Romney at a press conference this morning.

"Now I know why we had a hard time confirming Jon Huntsman," Faith and Freedom coalition chairman Ralph Reed joked near the end of the event. "I was in touch with his campaign all day yesterday."