A former governor of Massachusetts who, ten years ago, described himself as a "moderate" with "progressive" views, appeared on stage at CPAC this afternoon on a mission to shore up his conservative bona fides. He was a "severely conservative Republican governor," Mitt Romney insisted, one who vetoed many bills (doesn't even matter what the bills were — vetoes!), fought gay marriage and abortion-friendly politics, and balanced the budget. He'll be a similarly conservative president, he promised — ending ObamaCare, cutting the government workforce, and amending the Constitution to prevent gay people from ruining all of our straight marriages.
It's an easy case to make: Selectively promote the conservative parts of your record, and ignore the many moderate-to-liberal ones. But did CPAC buy it? All of the self-professed undecided voters we spoke to after the speech thought Romney did a good job, but specifically regarding Romney's questionable conservative credentials, the deal wasn't entirely sealed.
"I thought he spoke very well," one man told me. "I thought he enunciated the conservative principles, which of course is what this audience is worried about. So now what I gotta do is go back home and think, okay, how does that compare with his record and how should I vote?"
"Just from this speech today, I was more convinced than ever before that his core beliefs are more like mine," a former Brooklynite woman told me. "I was impressed. I'm not sure he quite made the sale, but I was very impressed, more impressed than before."
Baby steps, Mitt Romney. Baby steps.