Like many of you, I have been watching CPAC’s conference from the convenience of my home, availing myself of C-SPAN’s superb wall-to-wall coverage. It proves to be somewhat easier than going there, and finding only that one is forced to watch the event in hallway monitors. It’s hard to get into a session when there are more than 10,000 people in attendance.
The last hour Mitt Romney received warm support and applause from what looked on TV to be a largely young crowd—proof that today’s movement is made up of young and idealistic conservatives, not the unrepresentative minority of activists who make up OWS.
What Mitt Romney achieved in his speech is to prove to the conservative confab that his credentials and outlook as a conservative are second to none. Under assault from Newt Gingrich — who regularly calls him a “Massachusetts liberal” and worse — Romney accomplished what he had to do, without mentioning either Gingrich’s or Santorum’s name, referring only in passing to the other candidates seeking CPAC’s support.
He told the audience: “I happen to be the only candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat, who has never worked a day in Washington. I don’t have old scores to settle or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend.” Mentioning the famous Obama statement that this opposition “clings to their guns and religion,” Romney responded that “We are also proud to cling to our Constitution.”
He continued on to note his seriousness about slimming down the size of government, being fiscally conservative, and doing what he did in business — “balancing budget; eliminating waste, and…keeping as far away from government as humanly possible. I did some of the very things conservatism is designed for- I started new businesses and turned around broken ones.”
Without mentioning Rick Santorum’s name — at a moment when Santorum is his main challenger — Romney sought to convince the audience that he too is a movement social conservative. He cited his effort as governor of Massachusetts to oppose same-sex marriage, barring out-of-state gay couples from marrying there. “We fought hard,” Romney said, and “prevented Massachusetts from becoming the as Vegas of gay marriage.” He vowed that as president, he would support and defend the Defense of Marriage Act, and would “fight for an amendment that defines marriage as a relation between one man and one woman.”
The essence of his presentation was to depict himself not as the caricature portrayed by Newt Gingrich, but as a “severely conservative Republican governor.”
An hour earlier, CPAC also heard from the always charming and humorous Ann Coulter, who reiterated her position as a firm Romney champion. Coulter, for those who have seen her at previous CPAC or other conservative venues, is a favorite of conservative young people. She is always sharp and clever, if sometimes over the top, as when today she mentioned that Bill Clinton showed expertise by “ejaculating on White House interns.” But the heart of her speech was to try and convince the audience that since Chris Christie did not heed her calls to be the nominee — “He doesn’t even answer my phone calls,” she said — that the choice of the Republican Party has to be Mitt Romney.