Romney to conservatives: ‘In the end, we’ll win’

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—In his first public address since conceding the presidential race to President Barack Obama in November, Mitt Romney urged a conference of conservative activists on Friday to remain optimistic despite the loss. And he called on them to look to the nation's Republican governors as sources of leadership and strength.

"I left the race disappointed that we didn't win. But I also left honored and humbled to have represented values we believe in, and to speak for so many good and decent people. ... It is up to us to make sure that we learn from my mistakes and from our mistakes, so that we can win the victories those people and this nation depend upon," Romney said during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"It’s fashionable in some circles to be pessimistic about America, about conservative solutions, about the Republican Party. I utterly reject that pessimism. We may not have carried the day last November 7th, but we haven’t lost the country we love, and we haven't lost our way," he said.

"I would urge us all to learn lessons that come from some of our greatest success stories, and that is 30 Republican governors," continued Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. He went on to list a number of state executives—including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who were not invited to speak at the conference. Several of the panels during the three-day event, a gathering of thousands of conservatives from across the country, have focused on finding new ways to win elections in the future.

It was at this same meeting last year that Romney, while engaged in a brutal primary battle with fellow Republicans, told attendees that he considered himself to be "severely conservative." He ultimately clinched the primary a few months later, but his campaign was unable to gain enough enthusiasm to best the sitting president in the fall. This year, Romney took a moment to apologize for losing the election, but he vowed to continue to advocate for conservative causes.

"Each of us in our own way are going to have to step up and meet our responsibility. I'm sorry I won't be your president, but I will be your co-worker and I will work shoulder to shoulder alongside you," Romney said. "In the end, we'll win. We'll win for the same reason we've won before, because our cause is right ... and just."

As he exited, the audience gave Romney a standing ovation.