For the third year in a row, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has won the Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll.
Positioning himself as the leading candidate to win the 2012 Republican nominee for president, Romney got 20 percent of the vote to beat out Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (14 percent), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (13 percent), Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (13 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (10 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (7 percent), South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (4 percent), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (3 percent), and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (1 percent).
Nearly 1,800 CPAC attendees – which included representatives from 48 states and Washington, D.C. – voted in the straw poll.
In his speech to the CPAC crowd, Romney criticized President Back Obama and House Democrats for wanting to raise taxes, and referred to Obama’s new budget plans, proposals for universal health care and universal preschool as "awfully vague."
"I'm afraid I know where the liberal Democrats want to take us," Romney said. "And as they try to pull us in the direction of government-dominated Europe, we're going to have to fight as never before to make sure that America stays America."
Romney said that while parts of the Obama stimulus plan will, in fact, do some good in stopping the economy’s downward spiral, too much of the bill was short-sighted and wasteful.
“Every single Republican in Congress voted in favor of a better stimulus plan, one that focused on creating jobs immediately,” Romney noted. “But congressional Democrats couldn’t restrain themselves from larding up their bill with tens of billions of dollars for their political friends.”
Romney explained that while Republicans wanted to stimulate the economy, Democrats wanted to stimulate the government. Conservatives in the House and Senate who stood their ground and voted no, he said, were absolutely right.
“Let’s be clear on this point,” Romney said. “Conservatives favor clear, streamlined and up-to-date regulations and laws that let the economy work. But we will vigorously oppose those politicians who are poised to use their own failures as an excuse to undermine the free-enterprise system.”
Romney believes the Troubled Assets Relief Plan (TARP) was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses. “For free markets to work, there has to be a currency and a functioning financial system,” he said. “But we can agree on this: TARP should not have been used to bail out GM, Chrysler and the UAW. And this is personal for me – I want the U.S. auto industry to succeed. But as some of us pointed out last November, that can only happen if its excessive costs and burdens are restructured. And concessions are going to be few and far between if bondholders and unions already have your money when the negotiating begins. The right answer for Detroit is this: Fix it first.”
Romney maintains that “the invisible hand of the market is more powerful than the lumbering machinery of government. In the final analysis, we know that the private sector – entrepreneurs and businesses large and small – will create the millions of jobs our country needs.
In sounding very much like a presidential candidate in 2012, Romney advanced a conservative plan on health care system, saying Republicans need one based on free choice, personal responsibility, and private medicine; one that doesn’t add massive new federal spending.
“I like what I proposed in Massachusetts when I was governor. And even though the final bill and its implementation aren’t exactly the way I wanted, the plan is a good model. Today, almost every Massachusetts citizen who had been uninsured now has private, free-market coverage, and we didn’t have to raise taxes or borrow money to make it happen.”
Romney also took a swipe at Attorney General Eric Holder for saying America is "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing race.
"To those who question the character of our country, including the new attorney general, let us remind them that America has never been, is not now, and will never be a nation of cowards," Romney admonished.
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