“I hate to lose,” Mitt Romney announced to a packed and enthusiastic ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference, on Thursday afternoon.
Although he did not formally endorse John McCain, as he announced the suspension of his campaign, Romney gave a gift, and possibly his voters, to John McCain — now, the presumptive Republican nominee. Romney emphasized the need to beat the defeatists in the fight against Islamic fanaticism — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He pulled out of the race today because “we are a nation at war.”
(The practical effect of Romney suspending and not ending his campaign is that his delegates will not be released.)
“If this were about me,” he said, “I’d go on.” But it’s about no surrender.
In a speech strong on conservative principles, Romney focused on social-conservative values, calling culture “the source of our strength.” The former governor of Massachusetts emphasized the need for a marriage amendment, energy security, and railed against Putin, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad. He also showed his economic-conservative bona fides, insisting that “any conservative plan for the future has to tackle entitlement reform,” and calling for lower taxes, because “if you depress the public sector, you depress the well-being of all Americans.”
By the end of the speech, Romney, who won the presidential straw poll at this meeting of conservative activists last year, had well-positioned himself to be the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination. And he knows it: Romney began his speech saying, “It’s great to be with you again. And I look forward to joining with you many more times in the future.”
“The governor made a down-payment on a conservative future,” Gary Marx, coalitions director for the campaign told NRO.
In fact, in a meeting of conservatives after the speech, C-PAC organizer David Keene took it upon himself to formally welcome Romney into the conservative movement. (The official embrace had to be appreciated, only a few dozen yards away from a “flip-flopper” dolphin who’s been stalking the candidate for a year.)
A year too late for this run, but there’s political life out there for this Mormon from Massachusetts — who campaigned hard in the last year to go from virtual unknown to a frontrunner, and who ultimately, and honorably, stepped aside for the good of his country.