Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, returned Friday to the political stage for the first time since his disappointing loss in the November election, urging conservatives to learn from the mistakes that he made on the campaign trail to take back the White House and Senate — and put conservative principles in place.
Speaking at the American Conservative Union's 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Mr. Romney told the thousands in attendance that they can look for inspiration from the moves being made by the 30 GOP governors, including Virginia's Bob McDonnell and New Jersey's Chris Christie, two Republicans who were not invited to the conservative gathering.
"We need the leadership and the ideas and the vision of these governors — in particular we need to hear from the governors in the blue and purple states," Mr. Romney said. "Those are the states we are going to have to win to get back the Senate and the White house."
Mr. Romney mentioned Mr. McDonnell, Mr. Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
"These are the people we have to listen to make sure their message is being heard loud and clear across the country," Mr. Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor struggled to rev up grassroots conservatives in the run-up to the 2012 election, where Mr. Obama overcame high unemployment and mountains of debt to win a second term, and Democrats picked up seats in the House and Senate.
The unease over Mr. Romney became clear in the GOP primary, where conservatives test-drove various alternative candidates to Mr. Romney before finally settling on the Republican when it was clear that he would walk away with the nomination.
But on Friday the crowd gathered at the Gaylord National Hotel for CPAC gave Mr. Romney a standing ovation, rousing applause and calls of "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt."
The conference has given conservatives a chance to regroup from the campaign, with speaker after speaker calling for a return to the movement's basic principles of limited government and fiscal restraint, and urging conservatives to do more to engage the minority groups — blacks, Hispanics, Asians — that overwhelmingly threw their support behind Mr. Obama.
"We have lost races before in the past, but those setbacks prepared us for larger victories," Mr. Romney said. "It is up to us to make sure that we learn from our mistakes, and my mistakes, and that we take advantage of that learning to make sure we take back the nation, take back the White House, get the Senate and put in place conservative principles."
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