NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Mitt Romney admitted he'd made some mistakes in the 2012 election, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday in a particularly Romney-esque way, "I'm sorry I won't be your president, but I will be your co-worker, and I'll stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside you." To win again, "It's up to us to learn from our mistakes and my mistakes." Romney did not in any way name what those mistakes might be, instead reprising his 2012 stump speech for a 2013 version of the party that he left necessarily vague.
Conservatives have spent a lot of time talking about a comeback at CPAC, but they've mostly avoided talking about the guy who lost the last election, Mitt Romney. When he took the stage here for his first major speech since November — to "Born Free," the same Kid Rock anthem that preceded so many campaign stump speeches — he got huge cheers. "Mitt! Mitt!" "We love you!" "He cheated, he didn't win!" When it was Romney's turn to talk about a comeback, he avoided talking about why he lost the last election. Romney said:
As someone who just lost the last election, I'm probably not the best person to chart the course for the next election. That said, I do have advice. Perhaps because I am a former governor, I would urge you to learn the lessons that come from some of our greatest success stories: the 30 Republican governors.
Those governors have been able to do great conservative things, like charter schools in Georgia and right-to-work in Michigan, Romney said. But a casual look at what those governors are doing complicates that cheery picture. Many of those Republican governors run small red states that Romney won easily. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley introduced Romney by announcing she would never agree to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, but eight other Republican governors have decided to do it. The Republican governors who run bigger, bluer states — like Michigan's Rick Snyder and Ohio's John Kasich — won in 2010, a wave election for Republicans in a terrible economy. Two governors whose election in 2009 foreshadowed that wave — Virginia's Bob McDonnell and New Jersey's Chris Christie — were not invited to CPAC for heresies like raising taxes and hugging President Obama.
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"In the end, we will win just as we have won before, and for the same reason: because our cause is right — and just," Romney said. Several Republican governors might agree, but they've tweaked their causes.