Last week, Rick Santorum’s three-state sweep stunned Mitt Romney, who only days before had prevailed in Florida and Nevada. But after a strong weekend — he won the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll and Maine’s caucuses — an upbeat Romney tells National Review Online that he is confident about his chances in the GOP presidential primary.
“I hope to become our nominee, but I am not clairvoyant,” Romney says. “At this stage, it’s hard to know precisely how the political landscape will change over the coming weeks and months.” But as the Super Tuesday vote on March 6 draws near, Romney feels “very good” about his prospects. He predicts that his organization and his “clear message” will enable him “to go the distance.”
Romney says his CPAC speech was an important moment — a reintroduction to Republicans unfamiliar with his endeavors in deep-blue Massachusetts. He spent hours writing and rewriting the text, polishing lines and passages, intent on underscoring his conservatism and his gubernatorial achievements. “I understand that Senator Santorum is speaking a lot about that record, and I thought that I better clear it up,” he chuckles. “I wanted to make sure that people remember the real Mitt Romney, not the one being fabricated by my opponents.
“The perception is quite different than the reality,” he continues. “I want people to remember that I was on the front lines on conservative social issues, on conservative fiscal issues, and standing up for conservative foreign-policy values. I wanted to reacquaint people with what they remember from four years ago.”
Indeed, after weeks of having Santorum and Newt Gingrich blasting his record, the former governor says it was necessary to push back — not with barbs, but with details.
“It would be nice if races were focused on people’s vision for the future,” Romney says. “But I happen to believe that the contrasts that are being spoken of today will be spoken of in a much louder voice by the Obama team. So, in some respects, it’s a good thing to get them out there and cleared up.” A rigorous primary, he says, can be healthy.
In the coming days, Romney plans to emphasize his retooled message, building upon his CPAC argument. “You go through the list,” he says as he discusses how he’ll frame his Bay State accomplishments. Fiscal issues, it seems, will form the heart of his stump speech. “We cut taxes 19 times. We balanced the budget.” But he will also tout his administration’s efforts to curb illegal immigration and his leadership on traditional marriage, abortion, and contraception.
Romney will also get a little more personal in his public remarks, talking about his family and his background, from his immigrant grandfather to his father, George Romney, who rose from being a Mormon outcast in Mexico to become Michigan’s governor.
“I think people want to know the candidates on a personal basis,” Romney says. At CPAC, he adds, “I thought it was valuable to once again describe the background of my home. There was a real interest in getting to know our family a little better.” Romney hopes such stories will illustrate how his conservatism has been shaped by his experiences.