Painting himself as a social conservative, a business executive and a Washington outsider, Mitt Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday in Washington that his experience outside of the federal government is his strongest attribute in the 2012 presidential campaign.
"I happen to be the only candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat, who has never worked a day in Washington," Romney said. "I don't have old scores to settle or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend."
The speech was Romney's chance to make his case to the base of the Republican Party. He linked his political ideology to the nation's founding documents, saying, "We conservatives aren't just proud to cling to our guns and our religion. We are also proud to cling to our Constitution."
Romney emphasized his experience in the private-equity firm Bain Capital, arguing that his ability to slim down businesses could be applied to Washington.
"In business, if you're not fiscally conservative, you're bankrupt," he said. "I mean, I spent 25 years balancing budgets, eliminating waste, and, by the way, keeping as far away from government as humanly possible. I did some of the very things conservatism is designed for--I started new businesses and turned around broken ones. And I am not ashamed to say that I was successful in doing it."
He went on to say, "I served in government, but I didn't inhale--I'm still a business guy. And I can't wait to get my hands on Washington."
Romney cast himself as a champion of social conservatism during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. "Less than a year after I took office, the state's supreme court inexplicably found a right to same-sex marriage in the constitution, written by John Adams," Romney said. "I presume he'd be surprised."
By barring out-of-state gay couples from getting married in the state, "On my watch, we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage," Romney said. He added, "When I am President, I will defend the Defense of Marriage Act and I will fight for an amendment to our Constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman."
Romney added that he "vetoed a bill that would have opened the door to cloning and embryo farming," fought abstinence education, and "vetoed a bill that would have allowed young girls to gain access to abortion-inducing drugs."
"I fought against long odds in a deep blue state," Romney said. "But I was a severely conservative Republican governor."
At the same conference four years ago, Romney announced that he was ending his first bid for the White House.
Newt Gingrich is scheduled to address the conference at 4:10 p.m. ET. Yahoo News will carry his remarks live.
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- Mitt Romney