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Political Notebook

Mitt Romney says Obama administration fights religion

Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan, has been drawn out on religious issues by a birth control coverage controversy.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan, has been drawn out on religious issues by a birth control coverage controversy.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said yesterday that President Obama’s administration has “fought against religion’’ and sought to substitute a secular agenda for one grounded in faith.

Obama’s campaign seized on the characterization, calling Romney’s comments disgraceful.

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Romney rarely ventures into social issues in his campaign speeches, but people participating in a town hall-style meeting one week before the Michigan primary asked how he would protect religious liberty.

“Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda - they have fought against religion,’’ Romney said.

The Obama campaign linked Romney’s remarks to recent comments by rival Rick Santorum, who has referred to Obama holding a “phony theology’’ only to say later that he wasn’t attacking Obama’s faith but the president’s environmental views.

“These ugly and misleading attacks have no place in the campaign and they provide a very clear contrast with what President Obama is talking about: how to restore economic security for the middle class and create jobs,’’ said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman.

Religious liberty has been a topic in recent weeks because of the Obama administration’s mandate that insurance companies provide free birth control regardless of religious objections.

Romney took questions on gay marriage, Supreme Court appointments and abortion - and when asked about whom he might select as his running mate, he listed “prolife’’ as the first credential he would look for.

Romney faces an unexpectedly difficult fight in Michigan, his native state and a place where his advisers had long assumed he could do well. Santorum has excited the GOP base with strong antiabortion rhetoric and appeals to blue-collar voters.

PAC backing Santorum returns foreign donation

WASHINGTON - A political action committee supporting Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says it has refunded a $50,000 donation from a London-based securities firm because the money came from a foreign source. Such contributions are illegal.

It was the first acknowledged evidence of foreign money in the 2012 presidential race.

A spokesman for the Red, White and Blue super PAC said the $50,000 donation from Liquid Capital Markets Ltd. Came from an American executive at the firm but was returned because it was mistakenly drawn from the foreign firm’s accounts.

Michelle Obama leads bid to bolster women’s support

WASHINGTON - Michelle Obama is being billed as the featured attraction in house parties that her husband’s reelection campaign is organizing nationwide today to try to boost his support among women voters.

Michelle Obama is set to appear via conference call at the “Women for Obama’’ gatherings, President Obama’s reelection campaign said in an e-mail sent to supporters. Serving as honorary chairwoman of Women for Obama, she will “deliver a message just for us about the progress we’re making together and the work ahead in the months to come,’’ according to the e-mail.

The events come as Obama takes a more visible role in the reelection campaign. She spoke at Democratic Party fund-raisers in Los Angeles on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 while in California for TV appearances to promote her antiobesity program.

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