I had blogged yesterday that Mitt Romney's presence at CPAC seemed muted this year. By the time he spoke to the CPAC audience today, that was no longer the case. They were cheering enthusiastically at Romney's entrance, and I finally saw people hand out Romney stickers in the hallways.
Romney's speech took on the predictable challenge of trying to convince his audience that he is, in fact, a conservative. His argument came down to his family background and personal values. "I know conservatism because I've lived conservatism" he argued. In referring to his marriage and family: "those aren't values that I talk about, those are values that I live with everyday."
As for his time in Massachusetts, Romney described the experience as fighting "long odds in a deep blue state." He described his efforts to restrict same-sex marriage as his work to stop "Massachusetts [from] becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage."
Romney's command of the audience was very strong, but it must be understood that this is because he was ultimately following the GOP base. He promised that borrowing 4 dollars for every dollar we spend "will end under my presidency." He promised that he will "finally balance the American budget". Even his usual line about Obamacare was made more extreme. Romney usually promises to sign an executive order to stop funding and implementing the healthcare law, a tacit acknowledgment that it will be a legislative challenge to repeal it. At CPAC, he was less ambiguous, promising his Presidency "will start with the easiest cut of all, I will eliminate Obamacare."
It's impossible to make predictions about a hypothetical Romney presidency when it is not even November. But as Romney made his promises, it was hard not to be reminded of George H.W. Bush's infamous line, "read my lips, no new taxes." Romney was promising to implement every hope and dream of the audience at CPAC, and it will be very hard to do that.