Bannon rails at Romney in Alabama speech: ‘You hid behind your religion’ to avoid Vietnam

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss. Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney says he will not run for president in 2016. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Fairhope, Ala. • Former White House political strategist Stephen Bannon rallied for Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore by picking another fight with a figure from the so-called "Republican establishment" — 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinky finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA," Bannon said in his 30-minute speech at Oak Hollow Farm. "You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity," he said, referencing Romney's Mormon faith.

Romney, one of many Republicans who called on Moore to quit the race last month, had taken another swing at the candidate after President Donald Trump officially endorsed him. Like all but one of those Republicans — Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., —Romney criticized Moore without urging voters to support his Democratic rival.

On Monday, Romney tweeted: Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.

Bannon's attacks on Romney lit up the crowded room — an example of just how much the president has brought the Republican base into his own crusades and feuds. In 2012, according to the national exit poll, Romney won 98 percent of Alabama's Republican voters, and 90 percent of self-identified white born-again Christians. But during the 2016 primaries, Trump mocked Romney as a "choker" who had bungled a winnable election, an attack Bannon resurrected on Tuesday night.

Bannon, who has urged a number of insurgent candidates to run Moore-like bids for House and Senate next year, has also been trying to block Romney's path to Washington. He has reportedly toyed with the idea of endorsing Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, for reelection, fearful that a Hatch retirement would allow Romney to walk into the Senate in 2018, and become a conservative thorn in Trump's side.