Romney Rebukes 'Poisonous Language' at Conservative Summit

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney told Values Voter Summit attendees Saturday that "poisonous language doesn't advance our cause."

The Romney campaign said those words were directed at radio host Bryan Fisher, who spoke directly after the GOP hopeful. Still, coming on the heels of remarks made by prominent evangelical leader and Perry supporter Robert Jeffress, the former Massachusetts governor's comments might also be viewed as a rebuke to the Perry camp.

"The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate," Romney continued.

He also added, "The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us. Let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart."

On Friday, Jeffress decided to introduce Perry at the annual gathering of Christian conservatives by referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormonism, as "a cult" and by stating that Mormonism is not Christianity.

According to the Washington Post, the Perry camp addressed Jeffress remarks through spokesman Robert Black, who told reporters on Friday: "The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult. He is not in the business of judging people. That's God's plan."

Jeffress' comments invited conjecture that his statements were part of a coordinated effort between the Baptist minister and Perry's camp, since Perry, who is struggling in the polls, would be the likely beneficiary to any negative fallout for Romney.

Jeffress told reporters Friday that he had not spoken with Perry about his views on Romney's faith and was was not speaking for the Massachusetts politician.

Regardless of Jeffress' intentions, his comment could be seen as a reflection of the sentiments of some evangelicals, and conservatives in general, who have yet to be galvanized by Romney’s candidacy.

The conference, which annually features a straw poll, declared Rep. Ron Paul the winner of its 2011 referendum with 37 percent of the votes, businessman Herman Cain followed with 23 percent, while Romney followed in third place with 4 percent of the votes.

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