The GOP presidential nominee spoke to a crowd of 35,000, his largest audience yet on the campaign trail.
(Image source: The New York Times ) BY ZACH TOOMBS Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney covered family, opportunity and Christian values in his commencement speech at Liberty University Saturday. But it was his mention of same-sex marriage at the world’s largest evangelical academy that made headlines. CNN has it. “Culture — what you believe, what you value, how you live — matters.” “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.” Delivering Liberty’s commencement speech has become something of a rite of passage for conservatives. In 2006, the last GOP presidential nominee, John McCain , gave his speech. In 2007, it was Newt Gingrich . And in 2010, Glenn Beck . CBS reports, after Romney was announced as Liberty’s commencement speaker, there was some trepidation among the university’s students about his Mormon faith — something the candidate has seen much of on the campaign trail. JAMIE GOSS: “I think there’s a lot of mixed emotions. Some people are like ‘Oh, we wish we would have had, like, the Christian speaker come.” CHIP REID: “More than 700 comments — some critical — were posted on the school’s Facebook page after the selection of Romney was announced.” The New York Times reports Romney made no reference to Mormon faith specifically but did reference Christian icons such as C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Times says the speech was an important political opportunity for the candidate. “Mr. Romney’s closely watched speech comes at an important juncture for the presumptive Republican nominee. Even as he moves to appeal to the general electorate, particularly independent voters, he must also solidify his support among evangelical Christians, an important part of the Republican base, many of whom had supported his rival, Rick Santorum.” The Christian Science Monitor reports President Barack Obama’s recent announcement in support of same-sex marriage has put the issue front-and-center in the campaign for the White House. According to the Monitor, Romney’s stance on the issue will have electoral effects. “As Americans increasingly and apparently rapidly approve of gay marriage, this puts Romney on what critics call “the wrong side of history” on a civil rights issue, especially among younger voters (18-34), 70 percent of whom approve of same-sex marriage ... But among social conservatives – especially evangelical Christians – Romney is right.”