You could call Mitt Romney’s return to this annual gathering of the conservative faithful a homecoming because he was well-received here during his presidential bids. He always came in first or second in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll, and he received enthusiastic standing ovations on Friday.
But the truth is that the reformed moderate from Massachusetts was never quite at home among movement conservatives -- though he tried very, very hard, describing himself as a “severely conservative Republican governor” at last year’s conference. His patrician demeanor also put off minorities, young people, and women. For a man who always looks great in a suit, Romney always looked uncomfortable in his own skin on the campaign trail.
His first public speech since his November defeat was as lackluster as most of his stump speeches and as about as forgettable as his candidacy. He will be better remembered for what he did wrong (“47 percent” and “self-deportation”) than what he did right (his first debate against President Obama). He was a transitional, not a transformational nominee.
Romney acknowledged that himself, saying, “As someone who just lost the last election, I’m probably not the person to chart the course for the next one.” Earlier he said, “It’s up to us to make sure we learn from our mistakes and my mistakes and take advantage of that learning and take back the White House.”