Washington (CNN) - As he continues to fend of questions about his core convictions, Mitt Romney aggressively defended his conservative credentials Friday at a major gathering of right-leaning activists in Washington.
Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, Romney described his record in Massachusetts in almost startling terms, calling himself "a severely conservative Republican governor" who stood firmly with social conservatives in the fight against same-sex marriage and abortion.
Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
Political Notebook: CNN's Peter Hamby and Bob Costantini talk about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum's speeches to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Republican voters just can't settle.
Romney said that as governor, he fiercely opposed same-sex marriage, fought for abstinence education in public schools and vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for women to obtain abortions.
His remarks were met with a warm reception from the CPAC crowd, but not as friendly as the applause that greeted his surging rival Rick Santorum just hours earlier.
Though he walked the crowd through his record in Massachusetts, he made no mention of the health care reform law that he signed in 2006, which later became a model for the federal health care law that he is now promising to repeal.
Romney largely framed his conservatism in comfortable terms, through the prism of his stable family life and experience in the private sector.
"My path to conservatism came from my family, my faith, and my life's work," Romney said. "My 42-year marriage to my wife, Ann, the life we've built with our five sons, and the faith that sustains us – these conservative constants have shaped my life."
He won a standing ovation for defending his successful business record, which has come under attack from his Republican rivals at various points in the presidential race.
"I started new businesses and turned around broken ones, and I am not ashamed to say that I was very successful at it," he said. "I know conservatism because I have lived conservatism."
He referred to his GOP opponents in only the vaguest terms, questioning how the beltway veterans like Santorum or Newt Gingrich could enact "serious change and real reform" in Washington.