Mitt Romney at CPAC 2012

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is underway, and three of the four presidential candidates have given speeches to make their case to conservatives (Paul has declined attending to focus on campaigning). Today I’m going to be taking a look at Mitt Romney’s speech since I think he’s in the most interesting position right now. Despite Santorum’s recent wins, Romney is still the presumptive nominee, but conservatives remain wary. How does Romney address those concerns in his speech?

Romney starts-out with a light-hearted jab at President Obama, calling him the top recruiter and “community organizer” for the conservative movement, referencing Obama’s community organizing work. Interestingly, Romney says that defeating Obama will be the easy part. The race will certainly tighten once a candidate is selected, but I wouldn’t call this easy for Romney. He steps up the rhetoric a little more when he calls Obama “the last gasp of liberalism’s great failure,” playing to the audience. Romney’s next point is what I’ve been waiting to hear: conservatives need to talk about how they will lead, not just how Obama has failed. Romney has been guilty on this front.

Romney states that conservatives believe in freedom, free people, and free enterprises, and he goes on to sell his conservative credentials. Hey Mitt, phrases like “I’m conservative” or “I was severely conservative as governor” don’t help your case. True conservatives don’t have to flat-out say that they’re conservative. When Romney gets into some details on his conservatism, he’s on the right track. But just telling people that you’re conservative is not a convincing strategy.

Mitt cites his family and faith as his personal path to conservatism. He talks about how his grandfather risked everything to come to the country, and how his dad grew up poor, became the head of a car company, and eventually the governor of Michigan. These are excellent points that play well with conservatives, and not surprisingly, he didn’t go into much detail in describing his faith. Next, Romney proclaims that if you’re not fiscally conservative in business, you’re bankrupt. He sells his business experience and that he’s spent 25 years balancing budgets, eliminating waste, and keeping away from government. I think these are some of Romney’s best credentials, and he should tout them more often. Romney later talks about balancing the budget in Massachusetts and going from a $3 billion deficit to leaving office with a rain-day fund. On the important issue of economics, Romney is genuinely conservative.

Next, Romney addresses the social issues. He talks about how the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, and that he fought against it. He also includes vetoing bills for cloning and embryo farming, as well as fighting for abstinence education and mom-dad adoption. I credit Mitt for trying, but there are just too many elephants in the room which aren’t addressed (no pun intended). The fact that he was once pro-choice and, when he talks about repealing Obamacare, Romneycare is on everyone’s mind but never mentioned. I don’t know if it would be a good political move or not, but Romney should at least address these issues and explain himself. It’s just uncomfortable that everyone is thinking these things, and Romney just ignores them. It’s fine to look forward rather than backward, but it’s questionable when one selectively looks backward.

Romney finishes-off on economics again, and I really like his message there. He talks about cutting spending and ending the borrowing of 40 cents for every dollar spent. He touts himself as a chief executive and says that life experience distinguishes the candidates. Romney should definitely stick to the economic message when he can, and I think it really works when you consider Mitt’s experience as an executive when looking at alternatives to Obama.

The speech can be viewed here.

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