VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia: The Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, has thrust God to the centre of the White House race, in a culture war strike that prompted Barack Obama's team to brand him extreme and divisive.
Mr Romney appeared with the televangelist Pat Robertson on Saturday in the swing state of Virginia and seized upon the row at last week's Democratic convention sparked when delegates removed language about God from their platform.
After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Mr Romney told the crowd: ''I will not take God out of … our platform. I will not take God out of my heart. We are a nation that's bestowed by God.''
The former Massachusetts governor also appeared to imply that Democrats wanted to remove the phrase ''In God We Trust'' from US currency.
The Obama campaign swiftly responded to Mr Romney's rhetoric, describing it as a ''Hail Mary'' pass - a desperate long throw in the dying moments of an American football game when defeat is nigh.
A spokeswoman, Lis Smith, accused the Republican nominee of launching ''extreme and untrue attacks against the President and associating with some of the most strident and divisive voices in the Republican Party''.
With both candidates seeing the votes of white, working-class voters in battleground states as critical, cultural and religious issues could take on added importance before the November 6 election.
Before an audience filled with veterans, Mr Romney and the Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, who introduced the Republican nominee at the event, said Mr Obama had not done enough to halt pending defence cuts that are due to take effect next year.
As part of the agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling last summer, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, including Mr Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, agreed that automatic cuts in both defence and domestic spending, known as sequesters, would take effect next year unless Congress agreed on a better way to reduce the deficit.
Congress has not agreed on a better plan, so the cuts are still scheduled to take effect.
Mr Obama and the Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, have said they oppose the planned cuts in defence. The administration and Senate Democrats have insisted, however, that any plan to reduce the deficit and eliminate the sequester must include new revenues from an increase on upper-income taxes.
Mr Obama turned his attention to the swing-voter belt of central Florida, which usually decides the destiny of the state, and sometimes the presidency. ''The values we are fighting for are not Democratic values, they are not Republican values, they are American values,'' Mr Obama said, as his campaign flexed organisational muscle and turned out 11,000 people.
Mr Obama was introduced in St Petersburg, Florida, by Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of the state, who says he was driven from his party after losing a Senate primary to Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio in 2010.
Mr Obama renewed his attack on Mr Romney over what he says is ''trickle-down'' Republican economics. ''Tax cuts, tax cuts, gut a few regulations,'' Mr Obama said, outlining what he said was Mr Romney's agenda.
''More tax cuts, tax cuts when times are good, tax cuts when times are bad. Tax cuts to lose a few extra pounds, tax cuts to improve your love life.''
Mr Obama pledged to ''keep the promise of social security'' and ''not by turning it over to Wall Street''.
He also said his opponent's call to repeal the healthcare expansion known as ''Obamacare'' earns its own nickname: ''Romneydon'tcare''. There were new signs of a polling bounce for Mr Obama after his convention last week, as he climbed a point into a 49 to 45 per cent lead over Mr Romney in Gallup's daily tracking poll.
His approval rating as measured by Gallup held steady at 52 per cent, its highest mark since he ordered the operation to kill the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in May 2011.
Mr Romney enjoyed no benefit in the polls from his convention.
Agence France-Presse; Bloomberg; Los Angeles Times