The 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was greeted with a hero’s welcome among grass-roots activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.
The former Massachusetts governor in his first major address since the November loss thanked his supporters and said he isn’t completely giving up his public life.
“I am sorry that I will not be your president, but I will be your co-worker, and I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside you,” he said. “In the end we’ll win for the same reason we won before, because our cause is just, and it’s right.”
Anyone concerned that he would receive less than an enthusiastic embrace by conservatives at the conference in suburban Washington were heartened when the standing-room-only crowd leapt to its feet when Romney took the stage.
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Romney used his speech at CPAC — where he twice won its influential straw poll and ended his first campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008 — to concede that mistakes were made during his last effort.
However, he made it clear that he was not there to rehash them.
“We may not have carried the day last Nov. 7,” he said. “But we haven’t lost the country we love, and we haven't lost our way.”
He instead sought to encourage support for the next generation of Republican leaders, including the nation’s 30 GOP governors. He also gave a nod to his former running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who spoke earlier in the day.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley introduced Romney at the event. She received loud applause for her state’s voter identification laws and opposition to the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.
“This is a leader who is a servant because he loves his country,” Haley said. “This is a leader who’s back to tell you ‘thank you.’”
Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, told Newsmax that the speech was “very Romneyesque.” He reflected on the campaign, thanked his supporters, and related stories on American exceptionalism he heard while on the trail.
“I don’t think this was the place for searing self-criticism, and you didn’t get it,” York said.
“It was a very nice exit-bow,” political commentator and author John Fund tells Newsmax. “He reminded people both about his good human qualities and also reminded them that he had his limitations as a candidate.”
Heather McDonough, a stay-at-home mom from Charleston, S.C., said upon exiting Romney’s speech, “You could feel the love in there.”
“He gets the whole thing about American exceptionalism, freedom, and opportunity. Obviously, we don’t have that in Washington right now.”
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