Mitt Romney at CPAC: a chance for revival
CPAC, this week's conservative extravaganza in Washington, would not seem to play to Mitt Romney's strengths. But his speech Friday could present him with an opportunity.
Four years ago, Mitt Romney used his appearance at CPAC – the big, annual Conservative Political Action Conference here in Washington – to drop out of the presidential race. Then, he was the conservative alternative to the eventual nominee, John McCain. And when Mr. Romney made his announcement, the crowd groaned with disappointment.Skip to next paragraph
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How things have changed. In 2012, Romney is seen as the moderate in the presidential race. And his address at CPAC on Friday is his chance to create enthusiasm for his campaign among the conservative base.
Since Mr. Romney’s stunning loss in three, albeit non-binding, contests on Tuesday, the political universe has been buzzing with advice: Project a “vision.” Stop reciting the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” – we get it, you’re patriotic. Explain how you would change Washington in moral terms, don’t treat it a management problem.
The list goes on and on. But the problem is real: Romney on the stump can utterly fail to inspire. At times he succeeds.
Republican strategist Whit Ayres, who polled for the campaign of Jon Huntsman Jr. and is now unaligned, points to Romney’s remarks after winning the New Hampshire primary as his best speech yet. Riffing on the theme of a future that is “brighter and better than these troubled times,” Romney stood up for free enterprise – a bow to his background in the private sector – and rejected “the bitter politics of envy.”
“Make no mistake, in this campaign, I will offer the American ideals of economic freedom a clear and unapologetic defense,” Romney said. “Our campaign is about more than replacing a president; it is about saving the soul of America.”
The Romney campaign has promised the candidate will get more specific about his proposals as the campaign goes on. And expectations are high that he will use his CPAC speech to lay the rhetorical groundwork for the next phase of the campaign.
“He has to do no harm,” says Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak.
“What can he say that would really get people’s attention? Apologize for Romneycare," says Mr. Mackowiak, referring to the health-care reform that Romney implemented as governor of Massachusetts and which was the model for President Obama’s reform. “He can’t do that, of course. He wrote a book called ‘No Apology.’ He’s been accused of being a flip-flopper. But if he wants to allay concerns that he’s not a moderate sheep in conservative wolf’s clothing, that would be it.”