ORLANDO, Fla. -- The most interesting thing about the F&F cattle call so far is the clear delineation between who's expecting to run for national office next year, and who isn't. Mitt Romney, who came close to winning the state in 2008, gave a speech that variated not at all from his usual stump. No special religious notes. No tales of the founders communicating with the divine. A lot of economy talk, and the now-familiar -- and extremely photo-ready -- chestnut about the origins of the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We're the only country where people put their hands on their hearts when they sing the national anthem," he explained, demonstrating as cameras whirred and clicked.
His lower-tier rivals attempted to check more boxes with the crowd. "We are Gideon's army that is coming together!" said Michele Bachmann, who moved around the stage (if she was taller, she said, she'd use the podium) and told stories about the divine inspirations of the founders. Ron Paul started with the story of Isaiah, reminding the crowd of what God told the prophet about the "remnant" that can be activated by faith.
"The greatest example of this 'remnant' idea was what happened with the Soviet system," said Paul, going into the life and battles of Russian dissidents. Too subtle? Fine: "We ought to obey the Bible on the monetary issue!"
Rick Santorum made the pitch he always makes to religious conservatives: I've walked the walk, and the other guys just took pledges. "Look at what bullets and arrows they've taken for the causes they believe in," he said.
There's a difference, though, between the religious rhetoric that a presidential candidate will use, and what a state politician will use. Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, an African-American elected in 2010, barely talked about anything but religion. Among her applause lines:
- "They attacked the Passion of the Christ!"
- A secular minority trying to take religion out of public life was what "the dictators and the socialists did."
- Too many politicians put their faith in scientists, but "there's nothing a scientist can make that is exactly what God creates!"
- After an accident, "the only reason I survived was that God heard my profession of committment to him."