Despite the lukewarm feelings that some of those attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington shared with ABC News about Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor drew huge applause during his speech on Friday.
Addressing a packed house of conservatives, Romney focused much of his speech on his record as a “severely conservative Republican governor” of a “deep blue state.” He talked about his opposition to the Massachusetts law that permits same-sex marriage, and emphasized his success in keeping the law restricted to Massachusetts residents.
He also spoke about his dedication to anti-abortion rights.
“Let me also be clear on this.” he told the crowd. “My presidency will be a ‘pro-life’ presidency.”
Perhaps the greatest applause came when Romney embraced his success in the private sector.
“I did some things conservatism is designed for,” Romney said. “I started new businesses and turned around broken ones, and I am not ashamed to say that I was successful in doing it.”
That comment drew a standing ovation. Some people in the crowd even yelled “finally!”
Romney did not specifically attack any of his three remaining GOP opponents but did contrast his background with theirs, highlighting specifically his lack of time spent inside the Beltway.
“I happen to be the only candidate in the race — Republican or Democrat – who has never worked a day in Washington,” Romney said.
The response to his words was mostly positive. One attendee who didn’t want her name used told ABC News that Romney’s firmness impressed her. “He seemed sure of what he was about,” she said. Howard Moye, an undecided attendee who’d expressed some ambivalence about Romney before he heard him speak, told ABC News afterward, “this was good today.”
Romney was the second remaining GOP candidate to address the conference. Rick Santorum spoke earlier in the morning, and Newt Gingrich is scheduled to speak later this afternoon. Ron Paul will not will not be making an appearance, but his son, Rand Paul, addressed the conference Thursday.