Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney joked, at the beginning of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, that nobody has done more to unite conservatives than President Barack Obama.
It was an implicit admission that conservatives were more united against Obama than actually for Romney, which has represented the opportunity and challenge Romney has always had with conservatives.
Romney has argued that he has the best organization and the financial resources to defeat Obama. The rationale for his electability has essentially been that the “not-Obama” candidate or, as Ann Coulter said in a speech earlier, the generic Republican who is the least offensive or polarizing gives Republicans the best chance of beating Obama.
Romney jabbed Obama by saying conservatives are not just proud to cling to their guns and religion but, “we are also proud to cling to our Constitution.”
Romney also said that “Barack Obama is the poster-child for the arrogance of government” in a sustained attack against Obama.
He then said that he was a “severely conservative” governor of Massachusetts and described how his family and faith made him into a conservative despite the fact that ran away from the Reagan legacy when running against then-Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.
Romney touted his business record and noted that he was the only candidate standing who has “not spent a day in Washington.”
He talked about how he stood up for life and traditional marriage in Massachusetts and reiterated that he would eliminate Obamacare, “dramatically reduce the size of the federal workforce” and “tie the compensation and benefits of federal workers to those in the private sector.”
“The principle here is simple: public servants should not get a better deal than the citizens they serve,” Romney said.
Romney also said he would reform the entitlement system and spoke of how critical the general election was for conservatives.
“This election is a defining moment for our generation and for the conservative movement,” Romney said. “We have an opportunity for Greatness but with that opportunity comes defining responsibility. We cannot use this election to refight past battles or reward our friends. I know that the fundamental change this moment demands will take fresh, bold conservative leadership with real world solutions based on real world experience.”
The question left unanswered, though, is whether Romney is the candidate who can not only get the support of the conservative movement but whether he will govern as a conservative if he is elected.
That has been Romney’s challenge from the beginning and is so going forward.