WASHINGTON, D.C.—Mitt Romney leaves Washington today hoping that his victory Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll means he can stop talking about social issues.
CPAC was supposed to be to be Rick Santorum’s moment to shine, after a week of gaining momentum and solidifying the conservative base behind him. But the conference’s straw poll favors big money organization, and its big stage favored the more experienced candidate. Romney’s speech was flush with red meat for the base, and he mentioned some form of the word “conservative” 24 times. Romney brought the crowd to their feet over a half-dozen times during his speech — Santorum did it just twice.
The former Massachusetts governor’s campaign cited his speech as the reason for his CPAC victory, but to be sure, his campaign also purchased tickets for supporters.
Romney’s campaign never intended to focus on social issues, and the recent rhetoric is merely a detour, an aide told BuzzFeed.
Indeed, now that he has at least staunched the bleeding at CPAC and with a victory in the Maine caucuses, Romney is looking to the Arizona and Michigan primaries later this month. He’s in a strong position in both states, where the economy and immigration — central campaign issues — will rise to the forefront.