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.
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Saul Anuzis, former Michigan GOP chairman and a Romney supporter, suggests more stylistic changes to Romney’s approach on Friday rather than any eyebrow-raising policy pronouncements. Romney has spoken to CPAC before, and therefore understands the audience, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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“People here are looking for his passion, his convictions,” says Mr. Anuzis. “He has to speak from the heart and let people know what he believes in. There is a lot of concern about the fact that Mitt Romney is not a movement conservative. But he shares the values of the people who are here, and I think he just has to articulate that and let people know that he’s sincere and committed to upholding those values.”
Ethan Hollenberger, a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, voted for Romney in the CPAC straw poll, because of Romney's executive experience, though he’s not certain of whom to support in the primaries.
So what can Romney say on Friday that will make Mr. Hollenberger feel more comfortable with him?
“People want to hear him say that Romneycare failed,” he says. “He doesn’t have to apologize, he can just say that it hasn’t worked. He should also talk about social issues. No one disagrees with him on fiscal issues.”
Among the most committed conservatives at CPAC, Romney faces a steep climb in his speech on Friday. Jamie Radtke, a tea party leader from Virginia who’s running for the Senate, thinks long and hard before answering a question on what Romney can say that would reassure her.
“I don’t know what Mitt Romney can do to win over this crowd,” Ms. Radtke says. “When it’s one conservative versus Mitt Romney, the conservative seems to win pretty handily. I guess he needs a more focused message. A 50-page economic proposal doesn’t cut it.”
The results of the CPAC straw poll will be announced on Saturday, and it’s anybody’s guess who will win. Last year, Ron Paul won, with a heavy contingent of supporters in attendance. This year, Congressman Paul isn’t even attending CPAC, choosing instead to campaign in Maine. His son, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, addressed the conference on Thursday.
This isn’t Romney’s crowd – very few attendees are sporting Romney stickers – and it’s conceivable he could come in last. If he does, that would be embarrassing. In his ideal world, he will do well enough among CPAC-ers – his best friends four years ago, after all – that the conference doesn’t add to the perception problem that Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri have already given him.