In 2013, it was a different Romney who took the CPAC stage, held this year at a big convention center in suburban Maryland. He looked tanned and rested, not so much eager to please as eager to stay involved as the Republicans seek to recover from last November’s failures.
Romney acknowledged mistakes, but did not go into specifics.
"Of course, I left the race disappointed that I didn't win,” he said, adding that he was “honored and humbled to have represented the values we believe in.”
“You are a winner!” an audience member shouted.
“It's 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 that we take back the nation, take back the White House, get the Senate, and put in place conservative principles,” Romney said.
He gave shout-outs to numerous GOP governors, citing the actions of some.
“Gov. Nathan Deal in Georgia secured a constitutional amendment that makes sure they can have charter schools,” Romney said. “Gov. Rick Snyder – [cheers, applause] – got in place right-to-work legislation in Michigan. [Cheers, applause.] A number of these Republican governors were able to secure tort reform, and a whole horde of Republican governors inherited budgets that were badly out of balance and have replaced deficits with surpluses.”
Romney also spoke fondly of his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin. But earlier in the day, when Congressman Ryan spoke from the same podium, Romney’s name did not come up. Instead, Ryan wore his hat as chairman of the House Budget Committee, lampooning the budget released earlier this week by Senate Democrats.
“When you read it, you find that the Vatican's not the only place blowing smoke this week,” said Ryan, a possible contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.