A 2008 speech in which Rick Santorum declares "Satan is targeting" the United States has resurfaced on the campaign trail, even as the Republican presidential hopeful faces controversy over recent comments questioning President Barack Obama's "theology."

Santorum, an outspoken social conservative, made the speech during an August 2008 visit to a Catholic university in Florida, telling the audience that America was in the midst of a "spiritual war" because Satan was corroding the country's foundations.

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U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has seen support for his campaign surge in recent weeks. (Benjamin Myers/Reuters)

"Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition," he is heard saying in audio versions of the speech, which were posted online on Tuesday.

"This is a spiritual war, and the father of lies has his sights on what you would think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on: A good, decent, powerful, influential country — the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States."

'If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States.'— Rick Santorum in 2008 speech

The audio recording of the speech emerged on the website rightwingwatch.org and was widely dispersed on the Drudge Report news aggregator site, which last month revealed the existence of a scathing ABC News interview with the ex-wife of another Republican presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich. 

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who won three Western state Republican ballots earlier this month, has seen his support in polls soar in recent weeks above the long-perceived front-runner Mitt Romney ahead of next Tuesday's key primaries in Michigan and Arizona.

Romney blasts Obama's 'secular agenda'

Over the weekend, Santorum drew fire for suggesting Obama's policies were drawn from a "phoney theology … not found in the Bible." The candidate later said he was only questioning the president's "world view," not his religion.

Republicans in Washington have stepped up their criticism of the Obama administration’s policy for contraceptive coverage, insisting it is part of a wider Democratic campaign against religion and religious freedoms.

Romney, who has largely stayed silent on faith-related issues during the campaign, criticized Obama's "secular agenda" at a town hall meeting in Michigan on Tuesday, saying he would protect religious freedom as president.

"And unfortunately, perhaps because of the people the president hangs around with and their agenda, their secular agenda, they have fought against religion," Romney said.