WASHINGTON -- One day before Mitt Romney is scheduled to give the commencement address at Liberty University, the director of religious outreach for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign said that when it comes to values that are important to religious Americans, there is "a strong contrast" between the candidates.
Putting a religious spin on the budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and endorsed by Romney, Rev. Derrick Harkins said Obama stood for "values like loving our neighbors, being our brother's and sister's keeper and dignity for all," a reference to Obama's statement Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage. He said that on issues like the environment, immigration and poverty, the Democratic incumbent was more in tune with Christian values -- though he was careful to say Romney's Mormon faith was not the issue; his policies are.
Speaking on a conference call that included the president of the Liberty University Democrats, Harkins said the president's policies "resonate" with younger evangelicals. He noted that Obama got twice as many evangelical votes for president as John Kerry did in 2004.
"The president has stood up for Christian principles," said Christine Darby, a graduate student at Liberty. "His faith teaches him that hard work and responsibility does pay off -- if everyone plays by the same rules."
Despite the Obama campaign's insistence that it isn't giving up on any religious group group, the president trailed Romney 68 percent to 19 percent among evangelicals in a Thursday poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service.
While many evangelicals are uncomfortable with Romney's Mormonism, activist Christians meeting in Florida last month echoed a widespread feeling among Christian conservatives that a vote for the former Massachusetts governor is a vote for the lesser of two evils. And in a week in which Romney reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage, drawing a contrast with Obama, Romney may find a warmer welcome at the school whose founder Jerry Falwell once accused gays of causing 9/11.
Watch Obama talk about how he is a "Christian by choice" here.