Washington (CNN) - Sarah Palin issued a warning to Mitt Romney Saturday, calling on the former Massachusetts governor to do a better job explaining his record to conservatives or risk dampening voter turnout in November if he wins the Republican presidential nomination.
In an interview with CNN and The New York Times before her speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Palin said she was confused by Romney’s declaration here on Friday that he was a “severely conservative Republican.”
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“I wasn’t quite sure what the word 'severely' meant,” Palin said.
She said Romney and his two main rivals - Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich - should be given time to explain the flaws in their record until the Republican National Convention in August, when she said the nomination fight could ultimately be decided.
But Romney may have the hardest sale to make, she said, asking him to explain his “shifts in ideology” since he left the Massachusetts governorship.
“You have to have the tea party patriots enthused and energized in order to win this nomination, and more importantly in order to defeat Barack Obama,” Palin argued.
If conservatives are “dismissed and they are marginalized” by the Republican establishment, “they are going to be much less enthused and much less willing to put it all on the line for the GOP candidate in the general election.”
“We can’t afford to have low voter turnout in the general election, and that is all the more reason for Romney to really start connecting more with conservatives,” she said.
Though she has spoken warmly about both Gingrich and Santorum, she said she was still making up her mind about which candidate to support.
Her Fox News contract does not prohibit her from weighing in on the presidential race, she said.
Palin said she would not encourage any of the candidates to drop out of the race, saying it’s “not yet” time for Gingrich to step aside and allow Santorum to rally the conservative vote.
She also welcomed the possibility of a brokered convention in Tampa.
“I don’t think that it would be a negative for the party, a brokered convention,” she said. “And people who start screaming that a brokered convention is the worst thing for the GOP, they have an agenda. They have their own personal or political reasons for their own candidate, who they would like to see protected away from a brokered convention. That’s part of the competition, that’s part of the process. And it may happen.”