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Ode to conservatism at CPAC, Romney-style

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Romney’s brand of conservatism in Massachusetts may need elaboration, but “severe” doesn’t come to mind. “Moderate” may be more like it. Romney, after all, authored the health-care reform that served as the model for President Obama’s. It was his signature accomplishment, but he didn’t mention it at CPAC. Instead, he emphasized fiscal conservatism.

“We cut taxes 19 times and balanced the budget all four years,” he said to cheers. “I cast over 800 vetoes, and I cut entire programs. I erased a $3 billion budget shortfall and left office by putting in place over $2 billion in a rainy-day fund.”

Then there are the social issues, which he emphasized in his unsuccessful 2008 campaign and has largely ignored this time around.  But at CPAC, they were all the rage – especially in light of the brouhaha between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church over the mandate that religious employers include birth control in their health coverage.

Mr. Obama announced an “accommodation” right before Romney was due to speak. Church-affiliated employers now don’t have to cover birth control. It is the insurers that now face the mandate to provide contraception – for free.

Romney didn’t mention the controversy, but he alluded to it.

“I will reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent life in this country,” he said. It was the final point in a litany of promises aimed at proving he would be a “pro-life president.”

So how did Romney do? Scott Kamp, one of the legions of college students in attendance at CPAC, said he’s a Newt Gingrich fan, because he’s such a “great speaker.” But Mr. Kamp thought Romney’s speech was “pretty good,” and he would happily vote for him for president.  

“He did pander a bit,” said Kamp, who attends Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. “But he has to do that here.”

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