March 15th, 2013
02:42 PM ET
1 year ago

Acknowledging defeat, Romney points to governors as GOP's future

(CNN) – The next wave of Republican leaders can be found in the nation's statehouses, last year's GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a receptive crowd of conservative activists Friday.

In his first major speech since last November's defeat, Romney cited governors in traditionally Democratic states as examples of effective conservative leadership who could make inroads nationwide. Romney himself served as governor of Massachusetts before making bids for president in 2008 and 2012.

"As someone who just lost the last election, I am probably not in the best position to chart the course for the next one," Romney admitted at the Conservative Political Action Conference taking place in a Maryland suburb of Washington.

"But that being said, let me offer this advice. Perhaps because I am a former governor, I would urge us all to learn lessons that come from some of our greatest success stories and that's 30 Republican governors across the country. They are winning elections, but more importantly they are solving problems, big problems, important problems."

One of those governors – South Carolina's Nikki Haley – introduced Romney Friday, gaining loud applause when she touted her state's law mandating voter identification at polls. Haley wasn't originally scheduled to speak at CPAC, and several of the other GOP executives Romney mentioned, including Virginia's Bob McDonnell and New Jersey's Chris Christie, aren't on the speaking roster this year.

Both McDonnell and Christie have received some blowback from conservatives for their willingness to work with Democrats – McDonnell on the commonwealth's recently passed transportation bill, and Christie for his public praise of President Barack Obama during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

But that bipartisan bent, which may have cost those governors a speaking slot at CPAC, is exactly what the Republican Party should be about, Romney argued.

"These governors have shown that they are able to reach across the aisle, offer innovative solutions, and then they are willing to take the heat that you have to take to do important things," he said. "We need the leadership and the ideas and the vision of these governors."

The nod to bipartisanship is a stark contrast to Romney's last appearance at CPAC in 2012, when he declared himself "severely conservative" to a crowd still weighing Republican primary hopefuls. As Romney advanced through the preliminary contests to eventually become the GOP nominee, many in the party continued to view his conservative credentials skeptically.

At this week's conservative confab, Romney's name has been largely absent from the major speeches, though some of his ideas have been repudiated by high profile speakers.

Rick Perry, explaining why conservatism wasn't dead in America, said "That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates."

And Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida lawmaker who's being regarded as a Republican savior, rebuffed Romney's assertion that the 47% of Americans dependent on government see themselves as victims, telling the crowd Thursday that the "vast majority of the American people are hard-working taxpayers who take responsibility for their families."

Romney eventually disavowed the remarks, saying they were "completely wrong."

The former presidential candidate didn't tackle any specific criticism of his campaign during his speech Friday, though said he was willing to examine the blunders that may have led to his loss.

"It is up to us to make sure that we learn from my mistakes, and from our mistakes, so that we can win the victories those people and this nation depend upon," he said.

And he hinted he would remain a part of the Republican Party's efforts going forward, saying, "I am sorry that I will not be your president, but I will be your co-worker and I will work shoulder to shoulder alongside you."


Filed under: CPAC • Mitt Romney
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Boo

    Riiight...let's take a lying, losing hypocrite's advice...no wonder the Republican party is in a shambles....they are totally clueless.

    March 15, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Just what I expected from Romney, he's more or less a passing the torch of party leadership to anyone who wants to step up to the plate and take it.

    March 15, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Romney lost .

    Rick Perry is an in the closet progressive .

    March 15, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. MrBeenThere

    The Future of GOP Governor's is soon to be doomed, they are the only one's who believe they are doing great things. The American people are seeing the bait and switch Less Fed. Government means more loss of control of our rights and control at the State Level with NO recourse for help from the Feds to regulate all 50 United States of American.

    March 15, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  5. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    "As someone who just lost the last election, I am probably not in the best position to chart the course for the next one,"

    He should have stopped talking right then and there. The best and truest words that have come out of this man's mouth. BUT he kept talking. Oh well.

    March 15, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. chilly g

    rick if you come out of the closet i will vote for you other wies i will not it up to you.

    March 15, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Larry L

    @Thomas

    Romney lost .

    Rick Perry is an in the closet progressive .
    ==========================================
    Around Austin Governor "Oops" isn't believed to be in the closet for his progressive political ideology...

    March 15, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Randy, San Francisco

    Poor Romney...too little, too late in moving back towards the middle of the political spectrum. He paid the price for pandering to the extreme right of the party.

    March 15, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. June

    CPAC – seems like a loony bin. No one with any hope of a serious career dares go near it anymore – and that is the real reason why Chris Christie is not there or most old school republicans.

    March 15, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. NickAnast

    "As someone who just lost the last election, I am probably not in the best position to chart the course for the next one,"

    WOW! Mitthead CAN tell the truth. Who'd a thunk it?

    March 15, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. NickAnast

    "These governors have shown that they are able to reach across the aisle, offer innovative solutions, and then they are willing to take the heat that you have to take to do important things. We need the leadership and the ideas and the vision of these governors."

    Think he meant how Jan Brewer, Rick Scott, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and other GOP govs have put their state above their party and accepted the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare?

    March 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. kevin

    What an elitist idiot! Thurston Howell III! I wish he would wake up with a dressage horse head in his bed.

    March 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. kayla

    send in the clown

    March 15, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    Translation: "Our only shot at avoiding demographic armageddon is control of the states so we can really mess with the elections."

    March 15, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  15. Tea Party Thomas

    The American people elected Obama president twice. How can the American voters be that stupid. Romney would have overturned that damn Obamacare and dismantled Social Security and Medicare by now.

    March 15, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  16. ART

    Who is this guy Romney? Oh I remember,he's that guy who flipped and flopped his way to losing the election,not to mention his mean spirited wife didn't help.

    March 15, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  17. Jinx9to88

    Forget the clown car, they need a clown bus to charter these crazies to CPAC!

    March 15, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  18. Fingers

    Regardless of the speech. Irrespective of the crowd in the audience. The fact remains that Romney, was caught saying what he really felt about the American people. His lack of leadership abilities will forever be remembered, as he and his campaign staff tried to cover and back peddle this situation, as opposed to stepping up to the plate to take responsibility. This mans as phony as a three dollar bill. I guess he's the perfect person to lead republicans, but not the rest of the thinking, feeling, caring people of the country.

    March 15, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "Dismembered children. For what? Where's the pro-life crowd now?"

    Frantically searching for ammunition at every Walmart within a 100 mile radius of their homes.

    March 15, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  20. Woman In California

    "As someone who just lost the last election, I am probably not in the best position to chart the course for the next one," Romney admitted at the Conservative Political Action Conference taking place in a Maryland suburb of Washington.
    -
    Willard finally spoke the truth. Yet, these people are so stupid, they'll continue to take advice from a loser of not one but five (5) hometowns. What advice could a loser offer to anyone when he's never earned his way through life? Obviously, these people are not very bright or able to think of beyong hating the "black guy" in the White House.

    March 15, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "he's more or less a passing the torch of party leadership to anyone who wants to step up to the plate and take it."

    He's more or less a passing gas.

    FIFY (PS: I'm not picking on you Rudy...yuo've just been serving up easy ones today hehe)

    March 15, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Woman In California

    Correction: able to think beyond hating the "black guy" in the White House.

    March 15, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

    All those "effective" Republican governors who layoff public sector employees and then complain about the unemployment rate rising ... who appoint "emergency managers" to take over cities, a completely anti-democracy move that installs a dictator who, without public oversight, can funnel public monies to their cronies ... who require drug testing of welfare recipients to line their own pockets (because they own testing labs), even as evidence show the drug use rate among those recipients to be less than the general population ...

    Yeah, riiiiiight, Mittens we need more of those folks ... NOT!

    March 15, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain

    it makes sense that the GOP would have soulless creatures such as Mittens, Trump, Rove, Limbaugh, et al at the helm, given the only thing they value is money.

    March 15, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Kurt

    I liked Romney. Too bad he lost. Hopefully the Republicans can do better next time. And good luck to Obama during his remaining years!

    March 15, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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