For a brief moment, the crowd at CPAC wondered if it had travelled to the Gaylord National Resort and Hotel in a DeLorean.
Mitt Romney took the stage at CPAC to his campaign song of “Born Free” and gave what was a reasonable facsimile of his stump speech, albeit with some obvious adjustments. He made all the same references, the need for a strong military, the need to exploit America’s energy resources and even a shout out to his vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan (who notably omitted any mention of Romney in his speech this morning). He did omit any mentions of Barack Obama, but acknowledged the need “to learn from “our mistakes and my mistakes.” Romney even went so far as to admit “as someone who just lost the last election, I'm probably not the best person to chart the course for the next election.” But then, of course, he went on to give advice.
The biggest difference between Romney in 2013 and Romney during the campaign was that this crowd of movement conservatives cheered Romney and flocked to the stage to take pictures of the Republican Party’s last presidential nominee. The presumptive Presidential nominee appeared at the conference last year desperate to convince activists that he was “severely conservative.” Now, he seemed beloved. In his defeat, the former Massachusetts governor had somehow acquired the conservative street cred that he tried so long for so hard to get.